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Effortless Kings Leave Robinson Embarrassed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s a good thing the Kings didn’t need a win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night to secure a playoff spot.

One day after clinching their first postseason berth in five years with the Oilers’ loss to the Mighty Ducks, the Kings surely did not look like a team trying to pick up their play heading into the playoffs. Instead, they watched Edmonton skate away with an easy 4-0 victory before 14,450 at the Great Western Forum.

“It was the first time that I was embarrassed this year, I was totally embarrassed,” King Coach Larry Robinson said. “The crowd had every right to boo. I would have too.”

Robinson was so upset with his team’s effort that he thought about working them out right after the game but changed his mind.

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Instead, he plans to put the team through a tough 9 a.m. practice today.

“If they have any pride at all, they would have given a better effort than that,” Robinson said. “Obviously, they feel that they have nothing to prove. They are going to get paid anyway. They’re going to make the playoffs anyway. I’m really lost for words.”

In being shut out for the third time in five games and for the seventh time this season, the Kings sputtered against Edmonton’s aggressive forechecking all night. They had only 14 shots against goaltender Curtis Joseph.

King goaltender Stephane Fiset, who gave up three goals in two periods, failed to finish a game for the fourth time this season. He was replaced at the the start of the third by Jamie Storr.

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"[The Oilers] didn’t even play that hard and they still dominated every part of the game,” King defenseman Rob Blake said. “At this point, you just can’t turn it on for the playoffs. . . . You have to kind of tune up and get ready for the playoffs.

“Yes, we’re in and have the fifth spot [in the Western Conference] but if you’re not going on all cylinders by the end of the season, it’s going to be an early exit.”

The Oilers, who won four of five from the Kings this season, have three games remaining as they try to qualify for the playoffs. Edmonton beganThursday tied with San Jose and Chicago with 72 points..

San Jose defeated the Ducks on Thursday and Chicago lost to St. Louis. The Sharks, Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes are tied for sixth in the conference with 74 points.

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The Kings started the game like a team that had nothing to play for as Edmonton completely took control following an interference penalty on Ray Ferraro at 12:38.

At that point, both teams had recorded four shots before the Oilers’ aggressiveness in the Kings’ zone took over. Although they failed to score during Ferraro’s two-minute minor, the Oilers scored their first goal before the Kings could regroup at full strength.

Roman Hamrlik created the scoring opportunity from the left circle when he skated around Blake, who had dove to the ice anticipating a shot. Hamrlik then passed to Ryan Smyth, who beat Fiset from the slot to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead at 14:44 of the first period.

The Oilers continued their pressure and held an 11-5 lead in shots going into the first intermission.

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In the second period, Edmonton again took advantage of a Kings’ penalty when Dan Bylsma was called for tripping at 10:28.

After the Kings failed to clear the puck out of their zone twice early on the power play, Edmonton took a 2-0 lead whenTodd Marchant beat Fisetat 11:30.

The Kings attempted a comeback by picking up their physical play but their rally did not last long.

Edmonton rookie Scott Fraser stole the puck from defenseman Sean O’Donnell at the center line and scored off a breakaway after faking out Fiset to give the Oilers a 3-0 lead at 15:38.

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After giving up three goals in 20 shots, Fiset was replaced by Storr at the start of the third period. But the move wasn’t what the Kings needed.

With only 11 shots on goal for the first two periods, the Kings were shut down even more by Edmonton in the third. They had three shots in the period while the Oilers had 11, including a short-handed goal by Kelly Buchberger in the game’s final minute.

“It’s just work ethic,” Blake said. “It was like last year when we didn’t want to win.

“We just went out to see what they were going to do and they wanted it more than we did and they got it.”

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The shutout was Joseph’s eighth this season and 19th of his career.


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