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Kings’ Unartistic Victory Comes at Opportune Time

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From an artistic standpoint, the Kings’ 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night was far from a thing of beauty.

But after playing uninspired hockey in losing five of their previous eight games, including two in a row, the Kings collectively let out a sigh of relief when the final horn sounded before a sellout crowd of 15,726 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

“We needed the win and we did,” said King goaltender Jamie Storr, who stepped up to make several key stops among his 38 saves in only his third start since March 7. “The guys played great. We got the lead [in the third period] and we held on to it with good defense in the end. That’s how you win games. Everyone played hard, it wasn’t just me. Guys were diving in front of pucks, making plays and everything.”

The Kings did not make it easy on themselves against a Maple Leaf team that needed a victory to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

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In a wild third period, defenseman Garry Galley broke a 1-1 tie with 3:19 remaining with the Kings’ first power-play goal in eight opportunities, winger Russ Courtnall added the team’s second short-handed score of the game with 1:39 left and then Storr did the rest.

“This was really huge for us because we are on a long road trip and we hadn’t been playing well,” center Jozef Stumpel said. “We need the points to make sure that we make the playoffs. It takes a load off for us to get that first win. It should give us a little bit of confidence. Now hopefully, we’ll be able to take it to the next game.

“The last several games, we hadn’t played hard like we were supposed to. We weren’t fighting for the puck enough and that was what was missing. We’re still not [playing great] but we played hard the whole game.”

Like they have for most of the last three weeks, the Kings got off to a fast start when Glen Murray scored their first road short-handed goal of the season at 1:59 of the first period. Murray beat Toronto goaltender Felix Potvin on a breakaway after he skated down a nice clearing pass from defenseman Sean O’Donnell.

After being dominated by the Kings for much of the first period, Toronto took control in the second. The Maple Leafs, who had won two games in a row, rallied to tie the score when Mats Sundin assisted to Sylvain Cote for a power-play goal at 3:03.

“We did great in the first period and then we changed our game again,” said King Coach Larry Robinson, who had put his team through a tough skate-only practice on Sunday. “We stopped hitting and we took some penalties that kind of changed the momentum of the game around. We just have to keep telling ourselves what kind of team we are and the way that we have to play.”

The Kings came out physical in the third period but it was Toronto that had the better scoring chances early. Storr, however, was up to the challenge when he walled a point-blank opportunity by Sergei Berezin and a breakaway by Darby Hendrickson.

“I’ve always said that the team has a lot of confidence in both of our goaltenders,” Robinson said about Storr and Stephane Fiset. “If not for the play from our goalies, we would not be in the position we are now.”

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Storr could have been helped out by his teammates if they executed better on the power play.

After Roman Vopat, who played well in his second game since being recalled late last week, drew an obstruction penalty on Toronto’s Dimitri Yushkevich, the Kings finally scored a power-play goal when Galley blasted in a shot from the right point.

Following another outstanding save by Storr--this time on two Derek King attempts from the right side of the crease--Courtnall made a great play on a breakaway for his first goal since Feb. 7.

With 14.1 seconds remaining, Toronto’s Wendel Clark scored after a mad scramble around the Kings’ goal but that was as close as the Maple Leafs could get against Storr.

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“This was big because if we lose, all of the sudden it’s three in a row,” Robinson said of the Kings, who have four games remaining on the trip and 10 for the season. “This win was pretty huge.”


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