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Kings’ Penalty Sure Didn’t Fit Their Crime

The Kings were punished Monday night for playing by the rules.

Not the rules on paper, the unwritten rules that govern the ice in the NHL.

It’s a tough guy’s sport, filled with macho men, played to the sound of hard rock music.

So when St. Louis Blues forward Geoff Courtnall, a guy who makes his reputation doing things that get opponents angry, took a cheap shot at King goalie Jamie Storr, King defenseman Sean O’Donnell did what he had to do.

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He stood up for his goalie.

He pummeled Courtnall.

For that he got a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

For that, the Blues got the victory, and the series.

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It’s over now, decided in the time it took referee Don Koharski to decide on the penalty and the three minutes it took the Blues to ring up four goals in the extended power play that followed.

Perhaps Storr was shaken up. Undoubtedly he was on the wrong end of too many St. Louis man-advantages.

From a 3-0 lead to a 4-3 loss and a 3-0 deficit in the series in the time it took you to pick up this newspaper.

All of the progress made by the Kings and all of a sudden they’re back to square one, or whatever square comes before that. The strides they’d made in this series, which they seemed on the verge of making 2-1, are wiped out.

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The change in attitude from after that Game 1 shellacking--which left them in such a state that King Coach Larry Robinson said, “Whether we wanted to admit it or not, I think we kind of questioned whether we had the ability to play with this team"--is in jeopardy too.

They bounced back well in a 2-1 loss in Game 2, but now the Kings have to be wondering if they can’t beat St. Louis after a game in which they dominated the first two-and-half periods, how will they ever beat them?

Every other team in the playoffs has won at least a game, and every lower-seeded team except San Jose had picked up a victory on the road in the opening games, so why can’t the Kings?

And what will become of Storr?

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Will he blame this loss on himself? Will he be shell-shocked from the unbelievably rapid turn of events?

Will his neck hurt from watching that barrage of shots whiz past him?

All of a sudden, Robinson has another decision on his hands. It might be time to go back to Stephane Fiset.

The goaltending situation seemed to be a done deal after Storr turned in such a solid performance in Game 2. Instead of choosing between two with damaged psyches, Robinson could call on Storr with no second-guessing.

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Storr kept it up for most of the night.

The Forum, which rocked with chants of “Ed-die, Ed-die” for Eddie Jones in Sunday’s Lakers game, reverberated with the sound of “Ja-mie, Ja-mie” on Monday.

Storr made kick saves, glove saves, stick saves. He bent over backward and forward and stopped the first 30 shots thrown his way.

You had to wonder if the only way St. Louis could get to him would be to literally get to him.

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That’s what Courtnall did.

O’Donnell wasted no time in jumping on him.

And once the penalties were assessed, St. Louis wasted no time in jumping back.

First Pascal Rheaume, 10:07 into the period and 1:35 into the power play. Then Brett Hull got into the act. Pierre Turgeon scored only two minutes after Rheaume’s goal.

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By the time Terry Yake lifted a shot into the top of the net, the devastating comeback was complete.

The Kings felt good about coming close Saturday, and actually took momentum from a loss. This one-goal defeat will have them steamed for months. Definitely no moral victories from this one.

It’s become commonplace to think that just coming close is good enough for a bunch of playoff newcomers like the Kings.

That was the rationale in Southern California last year after the Mighty Ducks gave the eventual champion Detroit Red Wings all they could handle in a second-round sweep--and look where it got them this season.

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The closest they came to the playoffs were seats for Coach Pierre Page and assistant Don Hay at the back of the press box Monday night.

Monday night, the Kings did so many things right.

All it got them was a penalty and a loss.


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