Darius Kasparaitis took yet another run at a superstar and en
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ Darius Kasparaitis took yet another run at a superstar and ended up turning it into a victory for the New York Islanders.
Six days after an embarrassing 9-2 loss in Los Angeles, Kasparaitis helped the Islanders rebound with their best performance of the season in a 5-2 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night.
The defenseman broke a 1-1 tie 26 seconds into the third period when he hit Wayne Gretzky at center ice, then broke into the Kings’ zone and lifted Travis Green’s rebound over goalie Kelly Hrudey.
Kasparaitis, making his first appearance at the Nassau Coliseum since tearing up his knee last February, said the Islanders were conscious of their humiliating loss on the West Coast.
``All the guys were talking about it before the game,″ said Kasparaitis, who scored his first goal since Dec. 14, 1993. ``They embarrassed us out there. This time, the guys were ready to go. ... Some guys have luck, and I had luck to score the goal. When I hit Gretzky, I got excited.″
Zigmund Palffy made it 3-1 at 1:51 when he stole the puck from rookie defenseman Aki-Petteri Berg behind the net, whirled around and whipped a backhander over Hrudey’s glove.
The game then turned ugly, with Kings forward Eric Lacroix ejected at 6:36 for blasting Islanders defenseman Dennis Vaske into the boards from behind. Vaske was taken off the ice on a stretcher and hospitalized overnight with a mild concussion and lacerations on his forehead.
Alexander Semak scored his eighth goal during the extended power play for a 4-1 lead, banging in Marty McInnis’ pass at 11:21. The Kings’ Tony Granato scored his second goal of the night and ninth of the season off a feed from Gretzky with 4:05 remaining, but Derek King got his second of the season on the power play with 1:39 to play.
``We were in their end most of the night. I felt we had control of the game,″ said Islanders defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who himself was ejected with 1:25 left after an incident that saw Kasparaitis bounced for high-sticking Rick Tocchet. ``We did a great job on Gretzky, evn though he had two points, he wasn’t very effective.″
Gretzky set up both of Granato’s goals, but was stopped on a key second-period break-in as the Islanders outshot Los Angeles 39-18. About a minute after robbing Gretzky, Jamie McLennan did the same to Phil Cowie to preseve the 1-1 tie.
``There were a couple of moments in the second period when we gave the puck away and he had to come up big,″ Islanders coach Mike Milbury said of McLennan, who appears to have won the starting job after beginning the season in the minors. ``I thought we were a much better club than LA tonight. Payback is great, and we enjoyed it.″
Kings coach Larry Robinson, whose team lost 5-2 in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, played down fatigue as an excuse for the loss.
``As well as they played, it was probably our worst game since training camp,″ he said. ``There was no effort _ no hitting, no skating.
``We talked about getting enough rest, about playing five times in seven days. If you’ve got to babysit them, they don’t belong in the league.″
The Islanders opened the scoring at 12:10 of the first period when Wendel Clark tipped in Green’s shot for his eighth goal of the season. The Kings tied it at 18:25 when Gretzky took the puck away from Kasparaitis in the right corner and fed Granato for a wide-open 15-footer.
The Islanders dominated the second period, outshooting the Kings 16-4, but were stymied by Hrudey, playing in his first game this season after recovering from an ankle injury.