Three-day rest fails to revive Kings

December 29, 1990|By Rick Sadowski | Rick Sadowski,Los Angeles Daily News

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Staying off skates during the National Hockey League's Christmas break was supposed to help the Los Angeles Kings recharge their batteries and allow an assortment of bumps and bruises to heal.

Based on Thursday night's 7-5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the three-day respite had just the opposite effect.

Anybody have some spare jumper cables?

The Kings are healthier. Center Wayne Gretzky's bruised right calf isn't nearly as tender as it was a week ago, and defenseman Rod Buskas returned to the lineup after missing one game with a strained chest muscle.

But the Kings' defensive play was non-existent, as poor as it has been at any time during a 4 1/2 -week slump in which they've gone 2-7-4.

It's a miracle that the Kings are still only three points out of first place in the Smythe Division.

"Our defensive-zone coverage was awful, probably the worst it's been all year," coach Tom Webster said. "That's what comes from losing the one-on-one battles, which are based on body positioning and strength. That's probably our biggest weakness right now."

The Flyers exploited that weakness to score five goals from the slot area and chase goaltender Daniel Berthiaume at 14:19 of the second period.

"Our strength is getting the puck deep and forechecking," Flyers coach Paul Holmgren said. "We don't score very often so we've got to get the puck on net."

Berthiaume was replaced by Kelly Hrudey after an unchecked Ulf Samuelsson took a Murray Craven pass between the faceoff circles and chipped a 12-foot shot over the goalie's glove to complete a five-goal outburst that gave Philadelphia a 6-2 lead.

"I didn't think there were any cheap goals," said Berthiaume, who has been yanked twice in his past six starts. He's 1-4 with one no-decision and a 5.03 goals-against average during this stretch.

"When I play bad, it doesn't matter if I get pulled," he said. "When I play like I did tonight, I like to finish. I don't think I was struggling. But he [Webster] decided to pull me and it's his decision."

The Kings did make a game of it before Rick Tocchet's power-play goal with 2:50 remaining cemented the Flyers' first win in five games.

Dave Taylor's 399th career goal at 17:56 of the second period and pair of third-period goals by Luc Robitaille enabled the Kings to close the gap to 6-5 with 8:41 to go.

It wasn't enough to offset their atrocious play of the first two periods, when the Flyers were allowed to prance untouched in front of the net.

"They had bodies all over the place," Hrudey said. "I thought we had a strong effort in the first period. Our legs were going and we had good commitment, even though they scored three goals.

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