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Kings Can’t Even Get Whiff of a Victory at the Forum

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This is how bad it gets:

The Kings were on a rare second-period roll Saturday night at the Great Western Forum when a skittering, round-the-boards pass was there for the taking for Steve Duchesne at the Carolina blue line.

All alone . . . and he whiffed.

The puck hopped over his stick, and the Hurricanes’ Ron Francis won the race to it, on the way to Carolina’s 5-3 victory before 10,990.

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But the ignominy wasn’t over. Duchesne scrambled, chasing Francis and the puck, then fell to the ice, his body skidding in the way of the shot from 23 feet. Francis’ shot hit Duchesne’s stick and caromed over the glove of Kings’ goalie Manny Legace and into the net for a 3-1 lead.

That’s how bad it’s gotten in the Kings’ three-game losing streak, in their 1-5-1 record over the past seven games, in their 1-5-2 accounting on Forum ice.

“I have never seen anything like this,” Coach Larry Robinson said. “Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. . . . It’s like there is a black cloud hanging over everyone’s head. . . .

“Duchesne makes a great play to get back and the puck goes in off his stick.”

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What else can happen?

“It was a good shot by me,” Duchesne cracked. “I have to laugh. We just can’t get down over this or it gets worse.”

After falling behind, 2-0, in the first period, the Kings warmed in the second during a line change when Luc Robitaille beat a Hurricane to the puck far enough to send a slow pass toward the front of the net.

There, Ian Laperriere, skating as a winger for the first time this season, pushed past Carolina’s Keith Primeau and backhanded the puck past the Hurricane’s Arturs Irbe.

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Duchesne also assisted on the play, his 200th assist as a King.

Robinson had decided to shake up the lines and defensive pairings for the game, seeking some kind of spark. Instead, at least early, he got confusion, which led to the first Hurricane goal. It came when Ray Sheppard was skating with teammates Primeau and Glen Wesley on a three-on-two break, with King defensemen Mattias Norstrom and Sean O’Donnell providing the opposition.

And then not providing it.

Skating together for the first time, they took the two wings and left Sheppard alone in the middle, with Legace at his mercy, five minutes into the game.

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The 1-0 lead became 2-0 when Robert Kron scored from 22 feet out, past Francis and Duchesne who were wrestling in front of Legace, in the process screening him.

It was a power-play goal, one of two for Carolina. The other came when Primeau scored into an empty net with nine seconds to play.

The Kings rallied to close the Carolina lead to 3-2, getting a goal from Jozef Stumpel at 4:34 of the third period.

Suddenly, the Kings had momentum in the third period, something of a rarity of late.

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Just as suddenly, the momentum was snuffed out by Primeau, who scored less than a minute later, blasting in untouched from the right wing to take a pass and beat Legace for a 4-2 lead.

“That was a big goal,” said Carolina Coach Paul Maurice, whose team broke a three-game losing streak.

“The Kings are a good forechecking team, and it’s no secret that we struggle with a good forechecking team. So it was good to get the extra goal.”

Necessary, as it turned out.

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The lead was cut to 4-3 by Nathan LaFayette, who won a race with Steve Chaisson and flipped a backhand shot over Irbe. It was a short-handed goal, the Kings’ seventh of the season.

There remained 10:15 to play, with the Kings spending two minutes of that on the power play.

Again, somebody neglected to flip the switch, because for the seventh time Saturday night they found having a man advantage was no advantage at all.

It was the 21st consecutive power play without a goal, the 40th in their last 41 tries.

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