Robitaille Ends Kings’ Career With Win
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Luc Robitaille had a chance to put a Hollywood ending on his final home game with the Los Angeles Kings _ before Miikka Kiprusoff stopped his attempt at a shootout-clinching goal. But Pavol Demitra’s goal on the Kings’ first shot in the shootout held up thanks to rookie Jason LaBarbera, who secured a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
LaBarbera, who has spent most of the season as Mathieu Garon’s backup after winning his first seven starts, made 39 saves in regulation. The rookie then stopped Matthew Lombardi, Tony Amonte and Jarome Iginla in the shootout after Demitra beat Kiprusoff with a short backhander.
``It was a lot of fun,″ Robitaille said. ``I do wish I would have scored on that shot, but it was a very special night. It was amazing how nervous I was at the beginning. I don’t think I ever felt that way, but I knew down deep it was my last game here. I had a bunch of scoring chances and I enjoyed it. I’m real happy we won. What a way to go out.″
Robitaille has spent 14 of his 19 NHL seasons with the Kings and has provided them with countless highlights _ particularly in 1992-93, when he scored a career-high 63 goals and the team made its only trip to the Stanley Cup finals. The team’s owner back then was Bruce McNall, who couldn’t stay away from Robitaille’s home finale.
``It’s certainly right near the top, and it was a wonderful thing to see tonight _ the way the fans cheered for Luc,″ McNall said. ``I mean, Luc is as important to this team as any other person ever was. Luc and I started together, in a way. I bought the team the year he was a rookie, and it’s 20 years ago now. Luc deserves every bit of this. He’s been a great ambassador to the sport and a great player for the Kings _ the one constant they’ve had all these years.″
Robitaille addressed the sellout crowd of 18,118 on the public address system when it was over.
``This is L.A., and people usually leave early, but everybody was still there,″ Robitaille said. ``I can’t believe they stayed all the way to the end like that, with the traffic in L.A. It was the first time I’ve seen that, and it was very overwhelming.″
The Kings’ 41st victory gave them more wins than any season since 1990-91, when they were 46-24-10 under Tom Webster. Six of the wins were the result of shootouts. They finished their home schedule 26-14-1, tying a club record for home victories.
``Definitely you could tell tonight the guys wanted to win,″ Robitaille said. ``That’s probably the best game we’ve played in the last three weeks. We all gave it a little extra, and I’m thankful for that.″
Kiprusoff, coming off consecutive shutouts against Anaheim and Colorado, stopped the first 17 shots he faced before Demitra got a pass from Jeremy Roenick and scored on a short wrist shot that broke off Kiprusoff’s pads and trickled across the goal line with 18:41 left in the third period. It was the 24th goal for Demitra, who has missed 25 games this season because of various injuries.
Kiprusoff slipped to 1-7 in shootouts, and has stopped only 11 of 22 shots during the NHL’s new format for deciding tie games.
``It hasn’t been the strongest part of my game this year,″ Kiprusoff said. ``I have to work on them to be better next year.″
LaBarbera stopped the first 32 shots he faced before Lombardi backhanded the puck toward the slot from the right boards and Jamie Lundmark one-timed it past LaBarbera’s glove with a 9:06 left in the third period.
The Flames, who wrapped up their first division title since 1994-95 with Thursday’s 2-0 win over Colorado, have allowed more than three goals only once in their last 32 games _ when backup goalie Brian Boucher went the distance in a 9-4 loss at Nashville on March 18. Kiprusoff, who has started the last 15 games, has allowed no more than three goals in any of his last 36 starts since a 4-3 overtime loss at Vancouver on Jan. 7.
Notes: Robitaille wore the captain’s ``C″ during the game, and will again Monday night at San Jose in his final NHL game. ... The Kings, eliminated from playoff contention with Thursday’s 3-0 loss at Phoenix, are 4-7-0 under interim coach John Torchetti. ... Robitaille changed jerseys during both intermissions and changed sticks throughout the game so that family members and longtime friends could have them as mementos. ``I brought about 30 sticks,″ Robitaille said. ``I told Torch he’s going to have to play me a lot so I don’t have to change sticks on the fly.″ ... Calgary center Byron Ritchie had a breakaway with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the second period, but LaBarbera stood his ground and Ritchie never got a shot off. ... Robitaille had 55 goals and 56 assists in 96 career games against the Flames. ... Kings C Craig Conroy sat out the final two periods because of a knee injury. ... Calgary defenseman Rhett Warriner limped to the dressing room with less than 2 minutes left in the second period and did not return.