Kings Come Up Just Short

Times Staff Writer

Jeremy Roenick was back in the lineup, hoping to provide an emotional and physical boost.

Jason LaBarbera was back in goal, hoping to stop enough pucks to give his team a chance to win.

And the Kings were back on the ice, two days after a defensive debacle in Vancouver, hoping to move forward in the playoff race.


Well, Roenick turned in a gritty performance with a chip fracture in his right ankle and LaBarbera turned away 23 of 25 shots. Yet, the Kings turned up losers again, with the Calgary Flames skating off with a 2-1 victory at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday.

This was a case where two out of three was bad.

The Flames worked a little harder, which paid off in goals by Jamie Lundmark and Jarome Iginla, and received a shade better goaltending, with Miikka Kiprusoff stopping 25 of 26 shots. The reward was a first-place tie with the Colorado Avalanche in the Northwest Division.

While the Kings didn’t lose any ground in the playoff race -- they still trail eighth-place Edmonton by three points -- they did lose another day off the calendar, putting them another step closer to tee time.

“We got to get this thing together or shame on us,” Roenick said. “We’ll deserve to go off golfing.”

The urgency is evident. Roenick was back in the lineup only four days after being injured while blocking a shot. Jeff Cowan also returned, after sitting out five games because of a back injury.

Roenick put in 14 hard minutes, and nearly tied the score after the Kings pulled LaBarbera in the last minute, but had a rebound try go just wide.

“This is the time of year that if you can play, you got to be out there,” Roenick said. “We need everyone that can play.”

LaBarbera was tossed into the fray, making his first start since Feb. 11, and turned in his best game since November. The Flames buzzed the net through two periods, with LaBarbera making four saves on point-blank tries.

“It was weird standing on the ice for the national anthems, not on the bench,” LaBarbera said. “I think I used up all my energy being nervous about this game last night. I just battled through things.”

Still, he said, “It’s not enough to play well right now. We’re running out of time.”

The Flames have their own problems. They woke up Wednesday out of first place for only the second day since Jan. 1, following the Avalanche’s victory the night before.

“Yeah, we’re fighting for our playoff lives,” Iginla said. “It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. What matters is what happens in the next three weeks.”

The Flames played with the future in mind.

Lundmark pounced from behind the net and managed not one but two whacks at the puck in the crease, with the second one scooting by LaBarbera for a 1-0 lead 7:35 into the game.

Iginla made it 2-0 with a short-handed goal 16:23 into the second period, but only after Daymond Langkow beat four Kings to the puck along the boards. He centered to Iginla, who buried a one-timer.

“This one was hard to take,” said Craig Conroy, whose goal cut the Flames’ lead in half with 4:30 left. “J.R. and [Cowan] showed a lot of guts to get out there. But we got to find a way to win some games.”


at Edmonton, 6 PST, FSN West

Site -- Rexall Place.

Radio -- 1540.

Records -- Kings 38-30-5, Oilers 36-25-12.

Record vs. Oilers -- 1-2-0.

Update -- Pavol Demitra, who had surgery to repair a broken nose, was cleared to resume skating. Aaron Miller (back), Derek Armstrong (back) and Nathan Dempsey (concussion) sat out.