It’s Wing-Ding for Kings


Maybe the Kings are closer than we thought. Maybe they can stop going step-by-step and take a big jump.

Here it was, finally, after eight years, a playoff hockey game in Los Angeles that meant something more than merely staying alive.

The Kings are alive all right. More than that, they’re tied with the Detroit Red Wings, 2-2, in their first-round matchup.


Eric Belanger’s overtime goal Wednesday night capped an incredible comeback from a three-goal deficit to give the Kings a 4-3 victory.

Is it just the beginning? Can the Kings actually do this?

The longer they drag this series out, the more of an impact the injuries to Detroit’s Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman will have. It appeared that the Red Wings were tired in the third period when they failed to hold a 3-0 lead.

Since the series came to Los Angeles, the Kings have recorded--in order--a victory, a power-play goal and a series tie. Those were the basics. Now they have a chance to get something no one dared to discuss beforehand: a lead in the series.

That sure didn’t seem remotely possible for most of Game 4. Detroit was ahead, 3-0, less than halfway through the second period. Just like that, the Kings needed the equivalent of another Miracle on Manchester.

Well, they got it.

Call it the Fantastic Finish on Figueroa. Eleventh (Ave.) Heaven.

And this time the owner wasn’t in a limousine on his way to Palm Springs. That was Jerry Buss’ location when the Kings completed their five-goal comeback against the Edmonton Oilers in 1982.

Philip Anschutz, the main moneyman for the Kings, is rarely in town. But co-owner Ed Roski was present, walking through the locker room after the game with a smile as wide as the goal crease.


“I think it’s one of the defining moments of the franchise,” Roski said. “It’s extremely important for the Kings and the fans of Los Angeles.”

Those fans were cheering all the way out of the Staples Center and into the night. They probably won’t stop cheering until the puck drops in Game 6 on Monday night.

King Coach Andy Murray said before the game that the greatest benefit of L.A.’s victory in Game 3 was for the fans, to give them encouragement. The vast majority of the players hadn’t been around for all of the Kings’ futility, but the die-hard fans sure suffered.

They finally had a Game 4 that was more than a wake. They finally could do more than simply wish; they could cheer and think of the possibilities.

Murray’s short-term goal was simply to get the series to a Game 6 in Los Angeles. They could do it the easy way with a victory at Staples Center Wednesday night, or they could make things difficult by having to win in Detroit Saturday to avoid being closed out.

The fans tried to do their part, but by the end of the second period the sellout crowd couldn’t have been more quiet if it had been an exhibition game against the Atlanta Thrashers. The only reason the Staples Center fans had to cheer was an update announced on the big screen that Kevin Malone was out as the Dodger general manager.


Everything had been going the Red Wings’ way. When the puck squirted out from a group of players, Pat Verbeek was there behind the net to flip it off Felix Potvin’s leg for the game’s first goal.

The Red Wings got another fortuitous deflection when Vyacheslav Kozlov juked Adam Deadmarsh with some nifty puck-handling, then fired at the net. The puck glanced off King defenseman Aaron Miller’s stick and past Potvin.

What kind of breaks did the Kings get? Well, a Luc Robitaille shot flipped over Chris Osgood’s shoulder and clinked harmlessly off the post.

Another rebound came right to Ziggy Palffy, with no one between him and Osgood, and the puck bounced over his stick.

But the Kings later found out that execution and effort puts you in a position to benefit from some breaks.

Scott Thomas finally ended the Kings’ power-play ineptness when he made a shot with a man advantage with 6:07 left in the third period.


That made it 3-1, and made it interesting when a Jozef Stumpel shot deflected off Osgood’s skate and barely crossed the goal line--the officials had to call upstairs for a video verification. It was the break the Kings had been waiting for, but the Kings had only 2 1/2 minutes left to make it count for something.

The way they were playing, full of energy and attacking the net, it didn’t seem far-fetched at all. Brian Smolinski took care of business firing a shot past Osgood with 53 seconds remaining and sending the fans--and most of them were still in the building--into a frenzy.

There are more steps for the Kings to take, of course. The first is to get out of the scrappy underdog, happy-to-be-here mode. The next two victories will be much more difficult to come by than the first two.

“It’s great to be emotional right now,” center Ian Laperriere said. “But we’ve got to come down, because [the Red Wings], they’re so experienced and they’re going to come so strong.”

Murray, very soberly, reiterated his statement that all the Kings set out to do was get the series back in L.A. for a Game 6. But he lightened a bit when he mentioned how sweet it would be to be able to wrap up the series in that game.

Soundly, it’s possible to think that way. After a long season--or eight years or almost two decades, whatever marker you want to put on this--all it took was six minutes to open your eyes to the possibilities.



J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address: