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Kings Blast Out of a Slump

TIMES STAFF WRITER

W1K edged Y2K, but only by a nose in a race that shouldn’t have been that close.

Beating the calendar by only two days, the Kings earned the 1,000th win in franchise history Thursday night when some of their key players--Rob Blake, Luc Robitaille and Ziggy Palffy--ended their December doldrums in an 8-2 thumping of Edmonton before 18,118 at Staples Center.

Robitaille’s goal, his third in two nights, was the game-winner, but a score by Jaroslav Modry may well have been the most important in the Kings’ breaking a six-game losing streak that had carried them from the league’s elite to a position of hanging onto playoff stature by their fingernails.

Modry, working on the power play for the first time since training camp, batted in a rebound of a skittering, spinning puck that had been kicked around the crease by Robitaille after it had been launched by Palffy.

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The first-period goal gave the Kings their first lead since Dec. 11, when they won at Montreal.

It was Modry’s first goal in two years.

Flush with that success, the Kings launched a frenzy in the second period, led by Robitaille--playing on a new line with an old linemate--and Blake.

The goal by Robitaille--who finished with five points for the first time since 1993--came only 58 seconds into the period, and was scored when he redirected Mattias Norstrom’s shot past goaltender Bill Ranford.

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Glen Murray, Robitaille’s linemate for most of last season, started the sequence.

Robitaille, who had been playing on a line with Jozef Stumpel and Palffy, dropped back to Bryan Smolinski’s line to replace Donald Audette, who was scratched.

From Robitaille’s goal, the Kings piled on, taking six games and almost three weeks of frustration out on the Oilers.

Only 24 hours earlier, Blake had termed his game at Colorado “terrible.” But Thursday, he earned two goals in two minutes, both on power plays.

The first, at 5:14, came when Palffy threaded a pass across the ice to Blake, who popped the puck past Ranford with a one-time shot reminiscent of the first six weeks of the season.

Then, the Kings led the NHL in power-play efficiency. They had become increasingly inefficient since, but Blake’s second goal, which came on a rebound of Stumpel’s shot, gave them three power-play scores.

Jere Karalahti’s final-period power-play goal, his first NHL score, made it four. That last happened for the Kings in the season’s fourth game.

Palffy joined in with a goal on a pass from Stumpel, countered by Edmonton’s Pat Falloon, who broke Stephane Fiset’s shutout at 13:18.

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Smolinski added a third-period goal for the Kings, and Karalahti finished the scoring with his second of the game.

The players who are paid to score hadn’t been lately, and the Kings’ lack of success had reflected it. They had scored only 26 goals in 11 December games before ringing out the old year with eight goals.

Blake had only one goal in his last 11 games.

Palffy had only one in his last six, since returning from an injury-spawned exile.

It was clear that there was more than a little lingering frustration with the Kings, who had struggled through meeting after meeting, rout and near-miss since last winning.

They came out hammering at Edmonton, which hammered back in a manner in which the Oilers had won and tied the Kings in their first two meetings.

From beginning to end, there was aggression, with more fights than a WWF card. Recriminations abounded, with Dan Bylsma drawing 19 minutes off for wrestling Mike Grier to a one-fall win after Grier had twice blasted Palffy.

With 1:01 to play, Grier--who generally plays well against the Kings--was involved with the Kings’ Steve McKenna in a scrap that drew in Bill Guerin and normal noncombatant Vladimir Tsyplakov, whose peacemaker role was rejected.

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With ice that looked like a littered vacant lot, officials meted out punishment that could well end up under review in the league office.

By that time, the game was no longer in doubt and the frustration had shifted to Edmonton, which could have tied the Kings for eighth place in the West.


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