Alexei Kovalev scored his first two goals of the season, the last one set up by Wayne Gretzky in his Forum farewell, as the New York Rangers beat Los Angeles 5-1 Thursday night and handed the Kings their sixth consecutive loss.
The Kings' second sellout crowd of the season turned out to watch Gretzky make his final appearance in the same building where he broke Gordie Howe's career goal-scoring record with his 802nd goal on March 23, 1994 as a member of the Kings.
The NHL's all-time leading scorer and nine-time MVP played almost eight seasons with Los Angeles, leading the franchise to its only trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993. Gretzky also was a member of the Edmonton Oilers on the night of April 10, 1982, when the Kings recovered from a 5-0 deficit in a playoff game and pulled off the "Miracle on Manchester."
An ugly scene took place with 7:21 remaining, which led to the ejection of Kings enforcer Matt Johnson for deliberately trying to injure Jeff Beukeboom. Gretzky got his assist with 58 seconds remaining as his shot from the slot was blocked by Kings center Ray Ferraro and Kovalev converted the rebound. Gretzky did not have a shot in the game.
Ian Laperriere went tumbling into the end boards behind the Rangers net after a check from Beukeboom, who in turn was blindsided by a shot to the head from Johnson. Johnson received a match penalty from referee Ron Shick. Beukeboom collapsed to the ice face-first and was still wobbly when he left the rink a few minutes later.
John MacLean scored a power-play goal and Mathieu Schneider had two assists for the Rangers.
The Rangers, who entered the game with the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 4-8-5, had as many goals through the first 131/2 minutes as the injury-depleted Kings had shots on net. The Ragers grabbed a 3-0 lead with their first eight shots at goaltender Manny Legace, who started for the 14th time in 16 games because of groin injuries to Stephane Fiset and Jamie Storr.
Rangers rookie goalie Dan Cloutier, making his third start, was staked to a 2-0 lead by Kovalev and Manny Malhotra before the Kings took their first shot on net. Malhotra's fourth goal, a 30-footer from the inner edge of the right circle, beat Legace through a screen and opened the scoring.
After going a season-worst 0-for-9 on the power play in Wednesday night's 3-1 loss in Anaheim, the Rangers scored the first two times they had the man advantage. Rookie Olli Jokinen was off for hooking when Kovalev converted Niklas Sundstrom's centering pass at the edge of the crease. Kovalev's first goal of the season came moments after Schneider intercepted an attempted clearing pass by defenseman Sean O'Donnell.
Adam Graves made it 3-0 with a deflection of Todd Harvey's 25-foot wrist shot from the slot. The three-goal first period matched a season high against the Kings, who went scoreless in the first period for the fourth consecutive game and also lost at home for the fourth straight time.
Kings defenseman Mark Visheau scored his first NHL goal eight minutes into the second period when his low slap shot from the top of the right circle deflected off the stick of Kovalev and over Cloutier's shoulder.
But the Rangers' power play, 0-for-10 against the Kings last season, clicked again 3 1/2 minutes later as MacLean converted a rebound of Schneider's slap shot while Matt Johnson was off for interference.
The Rangers played their last game at the Forum, where they went 25-22-9 in the regular season and won three of four playoff games. The Kings will move next season to the Staples Center, which is under construction about 12 miles away in downtown Los Angeles.
Probably the most memorable game the Rangers played at the Forum was on Jan. 28, 1970, when Ross Lonsberry scored at the final buzzer against Eddie Giacomin to give the Kings a controversial 5-4 victory. The green light went on before the red light did, but the goal was allowed to stand.
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