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DISPUTED CALLS COST KINGS LATE PENALTIES PROPEL AVALANCHE TO VICTORY COLORADO 4, KINGS 2.

Byline: Matt McHale Staff Writer

The beer cups sailed out of the stands as a red-faced Andy Murray stalked off the Kings bench and up the tunnel to the dressing room.

When order was restored less than 10 minutes later, the Kings realized the same was true Saturday afternoon as it was six months ago in the second round of the playoffs.

Close is not enough to beat the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

The usually even-tempered Murray was kicked out in the final minute of a penalty-marred 4-2 loss before a raucous sellout crowd of 18,332 at Staples Center.

``It was a very emotional game for everyone,'' Kings captain Mattias Norstrom said. ``It's not something that you can turn on or off. This one got pretty carried away.''

For the Avs, it was their sixth consecutive victory. The game also was a chance for the Kings to make a statement. They have been playing their best hockey in years. But like last season when they lost to the Avs in seven riveting games, it wasn't enough.

This time, with former captain Rob Blake booed every time he touched the puck, the Kings held the Avs to just eight shots in the first two periods.

But what incensed Murray was that the Kings received a whopping 11 penalties, including two in the final four minutes of the game that led to a pair of game-deciding power-play goals.

``It was a hard-fought game, one that probably should have ended 2-2 and gone to overtime,'' Murray said. ``It was a tightly contested hockey game, and it's very disappointing to see the game taken out of the players' hands.''

But Ian Laperriere, never shy about mixing it up with an opponent, said the Kings needed to show more restraint against a team as powerful as Colorado.

``Some of the calls were bad, some of them were good,'' Laperriere said. ``But we had too many for any game, especially against a team like that. We had to be more disciplined and we weren't.''

Laperriere gave the Kings an early lead with his sixth goal of the season, at 3:20. But Milan Hejduk tied the game less than three minutes later with the first of his two goals.

It remained that way until the third. The Kings limited the potent Colorado offense to three shots in the first period and five in the second.

Chris Drury, who also had two goals, made it 2-1 at 5:17 of the third when he beat Kings goaltender Felix Potvin.

``Everything that (Hejduk and Drury) are touching is going in,'' Avs coach Bob Hartley said.

But less than two minutes later, Kings defenseman Jaroslav Modry beat Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy with a slap shot in traffic.

The most controversial calls came in the final six minutes. With the game tied at 2, Bryan Smolinski received a tripping call. Just as the penalty was about to expire, Hejduk scored his second goal of the game with 3:54 left, and it turned out to be the game-winner.

With two minutes remaining, the Kings had several chances to tie. When the puck went the other way, Mathieu Schneider was called for pushing Brian Willsie into Potvin. The momentum vanished.

With 35 seconds remaining and Schneider still in the penalty box, Jason Allison got tangled up with the Avs' Martin Skoula near the Colorado net. Skoula knocked down Allison in front of Roy. Allison retaliated and was called for roughing.

Murray wanted an explanation from the officials, the same crew that hit the Kings hard Thursday night in a 4-1 victory over Minnesota. Instead he got an ejection.

``I thought the officiating, ... there were some very questionable calls tonight,'' Murray said with a long pause. ``It was 18-5 in penalties the past two games. I thought the only thing that was consistent the past two games was the officiating (against the Kings).''

The actual count was 16-5 against the Kings. But given the trend, should Allison have been banging with Skoula with his team trailing by a goal?

``I'm not going to walk away from that,'' said Allison, who was held without a shot. ``I'm not going to change the player I am. There was a lot of contact.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Emotions get the better of the Kings' Jason Allison, right, in the third period Saturday as he roughs up Colorado's Martin Skoula.

Edna T. Simpson/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 27, 2002
Words:741
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