INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- During the long regular season, the Lo Angeles Kings battled for first place in the Smythe Division for two reasons. They wanted home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and they wanted to avoid Edmonton and Calgary in the first round.
The Kings got their wish and drew the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately for the Kings, they dropped Game 1 and found themselves in a difficult series.
"We opened the door for them in Game 1," Wayne Gretzky said. "And when we opened the door, they took advantage."
But Friday night, with Luc Robitaille scoring two first-period goals and Gretzky recording three assists in the game, the Kings moved one giant step closer to shutting the door on the Canucks. With a 7-4 victory before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Great Western Forum, the Kings moved to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Smythe Division semifinals. The Kings can end the series with a victory in Game 6 tonight in Vancouver.
The way Friday's game began, it looked as if the Kings were returning to the pattern of play that led to their 6-5 loss in Game 1.
With the Kings on a power play, Jay Mazur carried the puck into the Kings' zone and dropped it to Trevor Linden. With Mazur screening Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey, Linden passed to Jyrki Lumme, whose rising 15-foot backhander found the net.
Just more than four minutes later, with the Kings on another power play, Robitaille scored his first goal, deflecting in a shot from the right point by Rob Blake.
But the Canucks recovered and went ahead again at 13 minutes, 59 seconds, as Cliff Ronning scored his sixth goal of the series. With a penalty about to be called on the Kings, Ronning picked up a rebound and from a sharp angle shot it over Hrudey, who had flopped to the ice.
But at 15:25, Tom Kurvers was sent off for slashing Robitaille, and 24 seconds later, Mazur was penalized for cross-checking Tony Granato.
With the two-man advantage, the Kings were able to move into a 2-2 tie on a 25-foot slap shot by Robitaille. And at 19:01, Mike Donnelly put the Kings in front.