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Meltdown on Manchester

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call it the Nightmare on Manchester.

In a game that will be talked about for years to come, the Kings saw a 3-0 lead wiped out by four St. Louis power-play goals within a 3:07 span after defenseman Sean O’Donnell received a fighting major for beating down the Blues’ Geoff Courtnall, who had knocked down goaltender Jamie Storr.

Pascal Rheaume, Brett Hull and Pierre Turgeon scored goals to tie the score and then Terry Yake knocked in the game-winner as the Blues rallied for a 4-3 victory Monday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Great Western Forum.

The turning point came at 8:34 of the third period when the Kings’ Ian Laperriere was called for boarding but play continued into the Kings’ zone.

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Courtnall then ran into Storr, knocking him into the goal and onto the ice. O’Donnell pounced on Courtnall, who covered up while on his knees. O’Donnell was given a five-minute major for fighting by referee Don Koharski, and Courtnall’s minor penalty was offset by Laperriere’s.

The Blues then stormed the Kings and scored four goals to turn a game that had been dominated by the Kings into a victory.

King Coach Larry Robinson was upset with Koharski’s call.

“He robbed of us of a game, plain and simple,” Robinson said. “Their guy runs our goaltender and could have put him out of the game and he gets a two-minute for charging. It’s a disgrace. An absolute disgrace. . . . The people of L.A. should be very upset. [Koharski] absolutely gave it to the team across the hall.”

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When asked about Courtnall’s hit on Storr, Koharski said, “I didn’t see it.”

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at the Forum.

For the last week, the Kings emphasized their need to stay out of the penalty box against the Blues, who scored four power-play goals in the first two games of the series. So what did they do to start the game? Give St. Louis six minutes of play with a man advantage because of three consecutive minor penalties by the Kings.

It was evident early by the aggressiveness of the Blues in the Kings’ zone that they wanted to score first like they had in the previous six games between the teams. And with three power plays in a row, they had plenty of scoring chances, but Storr was ready for the challenge.

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Whether he was making a glove save on Al MacInnis or a stick save on Geoff Courtnall, Storr made it look as if he was the veteran playoff goalie and not St. Louis’ Grant Fuhr.

By the time the Blues’ three early power plays were over, they held a 5-2 edge in shots on goal. But the Kings’ penalty killers had made their statement. After their third penalty kill, the Forum crowd got more involved and soon after the Kings took their first lead of the series.

Laperriere got things started with a check on St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger, who made a weak clearing pass from the Blues’ zone. Ray Ferraro was able to keep the puck inside the blue line and shot the puck toward the Blues’ goal that Laperriere redirected past Fuhr to give the Kings a 1-0 lead at 11:01 of the first period.

The Kings then had two power plays to close out the period. Their first chance with a man advantage did not produce a goal, but with 8.5 seconds remaining before intermission, Perreault scored the Kings’ first power-play goal of the series, ending a 0-17 stretch.

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Fuhr had tried to make a clearing pass to MacInnis but Luc Robitaille, who played inspired the entire game, kept the puck in the Blues’ zone. Robitaille then fired a shot that Perreault, who has three points in the series, knocked into the net before Fuhr could recover.

With a 2-0 lead, the Kings chances for a victory appeared to have greatly improved. They were 22-1-3 this season after leading after one period.

The second period began like the first as St. Louis had two consecutive power plays. But again, Storr was too tough to beat as he made saves on Darren Turcotte and Pavol Demitra.

With St. Louis holding a 22-10 advantage in shots on goal, the Kings took a 3-0 lead at 11:03 when Robitaille had a shot from the high slot blocked by Fuhr only to have O’Donnell score a rebound goal while being knocked to the ice from behind by Jim Campbell.

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The Kings had an excellent chance to score again when they had a five-on-three power play for 1:09 late in the second period. But despite having a couple of good shots, the Kings were held without a goal, setting the stage for the Blues’ dramatic comeback.


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