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Palffy Gets a Break

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The stage was set for the Kings to rekindle some of the magic they had during their playoff run from last spring Saturday night and thanks to Luc Robitaille and the Detroit Red Wings, they did just that.

Playing in front of only their second Staples Center sellout of the season, the Kings defeated Detroit, 3-2, with an overtime goal by Ziggy Palffy, who beat Dominik Hasek on his game winner.

Palffy, who had been on injured reserve because of back spasms until Saturday, skated on a breakaway and scored with 1:27 remaining in overtime before 18,385 to give the Kings (5-9-1-2) only their second win in their last eight games.

“It’s always hard on a breakaway because you don’t know what to do,” said Palffy, who was stopped by Hasek in a similar one-on-one situation in the first period. “You have to be quick and decide right away. You can’t be too late.”

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The Kings, who trailed 1-0 heading into the third period, used goals from forwards Eric Belanger and Adam Deadmarsh to take a 2-1 lead before a late score from Detroit’s Chris Chelios sent the game into overtime.

That set the stage for Palffy’s heroics.

“The game was exciting and it reminded me a little bit [of last season’s playoff run],” Deadmarsh said. “It was a packed house and for once, we got the third goal. We’ve really struggled to get that one lately and it feels good. We haven’t won the [Stanley] Cup by any means tonight, but it is a steppingstone.”

Detroit, which has one of the best power plays in the league, twice had a man advantage over the first 20 minutes and the Kings, who entered with the seventh-best penalty killing unit in the league, did not give up a power-play goal. But sometimes, numbers can be deceiving.

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The Red Wings may not have scored when they had a man advantage in the opening period but they registered the game’s first goal seconds after they completed one.

The Kings’ Steve Heinze was barely back on the ice after serving a minor holding penalty when Detroit took a 1-0 lead on a goal credited to Igor Larionov at the 11-minute mark. Detroit’s Fredrik Olausson started the play with a shot from the blue line that deflected off the Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom, a King and then finally Larionov’s skate past King goaltender Felix Potvin.

After defeating the Mighty Ducks, 1-0, at the Arrowhead Pond on Friday, Detroit was in position to duplicate that win for the second night in a row.

But the Kings had a different ending in their plans. After watching Hasek stop one shot after another for a little over two periods, they finally broke through early in the third and it took a skillful play from Belanger to get it done.

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With the puck inside the Detroit zone, Ian Laperriere got the play going by drawing the Red Wing defense to him before making a soft drop pass to Belanger inside the left circle. Belanger then shook free from Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk with a sweet stick move and scored with a backhand over Hasek’s glove 3:41 into the final period to tie the score, 1-1.

Following Belanger’s goal, the Kings continued to outplay the Red Wings. The sloppy passes they were making early in the game became crisp, and the loose pucks Detroit was getting to first ended up going to the Kings.

That’s how they finally took the lead. With Jason Allison alone behind the Detroit net, Deadmarsh was able to knock in a short pass from the King center for his seventh goal of the season 10:51 into the third.

Detroit tied the score at 14:27 on a goal from the blue line by Chelios, who took advantage of a perfect set-up pass from former King Steve Duchesne.

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In making his first appearance at Staples Center since he signed as a free agent with Detroit during the off-season, Robitaille did not score but was cheered every time he touched the puck.

“You can’t win them all,” Robitaille said. “The fans were really nice. They made it pretty special and it’s something that I will remember forever.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

ROUGH START

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Comparing the Kings through 16 games (GFA-goals for average. GAA-goals against average):

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2000-01 2001-02 Record 8-6-3-0 5-9-1-2 GFA 3.47 2.53 GAA 2.48 2.65

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