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Kings Used as Target Practice

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Last season, King goaltender Stephane Fiset was a key early contributor for the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. Tuesday night, Fiset got a taste of his former team’s style when he made the Avalanche record book by facing 29 first-period shots before losing, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 16,061 at McNichols Arena.

Fiset was impressive in stopping a career-high 48 of 51 shots (a King opponent season-high). His counterpart Patrick Roy, whose acquisition from Montreal made Fiset expendable last season, made 31 saves.

“I guess [Fiset] enjoyed himself, he got a lot of shots,” Roy said of his former teammate. “He’s the only reason the game was so close.”

In losing for the eighth time in their last 11 games, the beat-up Kings were missing Dimitri Khristich, Kai Nurminen, Yanic Perreault and Vitali Yachmenev because of an injury or flu. They also were without Rob Blake and Matt Johnson, who are under league suspension.

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Not the way you want to face Colorado, which improved to an NHL-best 33-14-8 with the victory.

“For most of the game, we went with three lines with one extra forward,” King Coach Larry Robinson said. “Being undermanned [didn’t] help. It’s tough enough when we have everybody playing against the best team in the league.”

For the second consecutive game, the Kings had to rely heavily on Roman Vopat, Jeff Shevalier, Nathan LaFayette and Paul DiPietro, four young forwards who have spent most of the season in the minors.

Collectively, they played well but they were no match for the Avalanche, which got goals from Adam Deadmarsh, Mike Ricci and Valeri Kamensky to win for the third time in four games against the Kings this season.

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“You can’t compare our team with the Avalanche,” said Fiset, whose previous high for shots faced was 48 when he played for Quebec in 1991. “They won the Stanley Cup last season and we’re rebuilding.”

It’s understandable if Fiset wanted to take a break after the first period. The Avalanche’s 29 shots on goal set a franchise record for most in the period and tied the mark by a King opponent.

Colorado’s previous high had been 26 against Winnipeg in 1995 and the Minnesota North Stars had 29 shots against King goalie Mario Lessard in 1981.

Fiset, however, was up to the task as he dove, kicked and grabbed nearly all of Colorado’s scoring opportunities. The Avalanche’s only goal in the period came when Deadmarsh’s shot from behind the goal bounced off Fiset’s stick into the net at 6:46. It was Deadmarsh’s fourth goal in four games against the Kings.

The Kings were able to tie the score at 1-1 in the most unlikely way when Ian Laperriere scored only their fourth short-handed goal of the season--only three teams have scored fewer.

With Colorado in its third power play of the period, King defenseman Sean O’Donnell had a slap shot stopped by Roy, but Laperriere was there to score on a rebound shot from the slot with only four seconds remaining in the period.

“I was waiting for the buzzer,” Fiset said. “They shot at me pretty often, but we had to kill some penalties for most of the period.”

Deadmarsh assisted on the Avalanche’s second goal when he made a perfect cross-ice pass to Ricci, who beat Fiset from the right circle for the Avalanche’s 57th power-play goal of the season--most in the NHL--at 10:23.

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Colorado finally opened some breathing room when Kamensky knocked in a rebound at 17:51 for a 3-1 lead.

Roy kept the Kings from getting any closer with several outstanding saves while stopping 14 shots in the third period.


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