Kings Rolled by Avalanche
For the last 41 minutes of its 6-1 victory over the Kings on Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche dominated as if it were playing a minor league team.
Which, in a way, it was.
With 10 players sidelined because of injury or illness, the Kings sent a patchwork lineup onto the Pepsi Center ice in front of 18,007 to face an Avalanche team only 18 months removed from winning the 2001 Stanley Cup.
And even with injured scoring leader Joe Sakic missing from the Avalanche lineup, the result was predictable. Peter Forsberg scored three goals for his first hat trick in nearly four years and the Avalanche rolled to its most lopsided victory of what has been an uncharacteristically bumpy season in Denver.
For the Kings, the five-goal loss was their second in six days.
They lost Dec. 23 at St. Louis, 5-0, before scoring a 4-3 overtime victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday even as the injuries continued to mount.
As Sunday dawned, King Coach Andy Murray knew he would be without nine injured regulars, among them Jason Allison, Adam Deadmarsh, Bryan Smolinski, Alexander Frolov and Eric Belanger, all back home.
That left him with only Ziggy Palffy among his top six forwards. Also sidelined was Aaron Miller, one of his top two defensemen. Then came word that defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky had the stomach flu.
Murray, though, put on a brave face, telling the players assembled before him, seven of whom started the season in the minors, that this was a rare opportunity to pull off a monumental upset.
“The story that’s going to be written is that 10 out of a possible 18 skaters were out of our lineup,” he told them. “The idea is to write our own story.”
And right up until Mikko Eloranta was called for hooking Alex Tanguay of the Avalanche at 19:07 of the first period, and the referees then tacked on a delay-of-game penalty against them, the Kings believed.
“I’ve seen plenty of times where depleted teams come in and steal games,” defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. “I thought we got a great start to the game. We jumped on them; we did everything we needed to do.”
They led, 1-0, thanks to a power-play goal by Palffy in the fifth minute. And they had outshot the Avalanche, 13-3.
But then, during the two-man advantage that followed, Forsberg kick-started a dramatic momentum shift, scoring the first of three power-play goals by the Avalanche off a pass from Milan Hejduk, who had three assists.
With Michael Cammalleri in the penalty box for holding Riku Hahl, Radim Vrbata scored another power-play goal at the end of a two-on-one breakaway early in the second period. Another breakaway, this time with the teams at even strength, led to a goal by Dean McAmmond about 10 minutes later.
Forsberg, who also had two goals and an assist in a 4-1 Avalanche victory Oct. 17 at Staples Center, scored his 11th and 12th goals in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third period. The first with Cammalleri again in the penalty box, and Tanguay completed the scoring with 4:46 to play.
The delay-of-game penalty seemed to have changed everything, leading to the Kings’ fourth consecutive road loss.
“From there,” winger Craig Johnson, “it was a different game.”
The penalty was called, the Kings said, as they were asking for clarification about where a faceoff would be contested.
“To me, it wasn’t necessary to make that call at that point,” Murray said. “But whether I agree with it or not, it happened, and I take responsibility for it.”