<
>

Once-mighty Hurricanes drop fifth straight

2/8/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- To the Carolina Hurricanes, every team looks
like a Stanley Cup finalist these days. The Los Angeles Kings were
no exception.

Bryan Smolinski scored three power-play goals for his third
career hat trick and Jared Aulin got his first two NHL goals as Los
Angeles sent the riches-to-rags Hurricanes to their fifth straight
loss with an 8-2 victory Friday night.

The Hurricanes, who came within three victories of a Stanley Cup
title last season, are tied for 13th place in the Eastern
Conference standings and 10 points out of a playoff spot with 27
games left. Only three teams in the previous 32 years missed the
postseason a year after going to the finals -- the Kings (1993-94),
New Jersey (1995-96) and Washington (1998-99).

"They had a great run. I don't know what the feeling is when
you go to the finals and lose, and then the next year it gets tough
on you,'' Smolinski said. "But they're professionals and they're
playing hard. Their backs are against the wall, but they're still
in the hunt. You can't count yourself out with so many games
left.''

Kevin Weekes, who lasted only two periods after allowing seven
goals, took a few seconds to answer when he was asked if this is
what rock-bottom looks like.

"I would have to say it is. This is inexcusable,'' Weekes said.
"As an organization, a lot of the things that made us successful
aren't in place right now. The formula is most important, and when
you have the right one, better results are a lot more likely.''

Jaroslav Svoboda and Josef Vasicek scored for the Hurricanes,
who have dropped 13 of their last 14 games and seven straight on
the road. Earlier Friday, they traded Sami Kapanen to Philadelphia
for former Flyers No. 1 draft pick Pavel Brendl after Kapanen
scored one goal in a span of 25 games.

"It's unfortunate. Sami is a casualty of our situation right
now. Sometimes you're an innocent bystander and you get hit with
shrapnel,'' Weekes said.

"I don't know how many guys in this locker room have played
under these circumstances before, but I know these guys value being
here and they enjoy playing for this team. Unfortunately, very few
people in these situations come out unscathed,'' he said.

The Kings' third straight victory, which came in Andy Murray's
300th regular-season game as an NHL coach, matched their longest
winning streak of the season.

Brad Chartrand and rookie Joe Corvo also scored for Los Angeles
and Ziggy Palffy got his 20th goal as Carolina struggled through
its worst defensive game of the season. Defenseman Jaroslav Modry
tied a career high with three assists for the Kings, who had a
season-high four power-play goals.

Arturs Irbe replaced Weekes at the start of the third and gave
up Smolinski's 12th goal with 1:19 to play. It was the second hat
trick against Carolina in three games, including one by Martin St.
Louis of Tampa Bay in the last game before the All-Star break.

"It happens, it happens. You don't want to disrespect the other
team, but you still want to keep playing hard,'' Smolinski said.
"We didn't try to embarrass them. We just took what they gave
us.''

The Kings outshot the Hurricanes 34-14 over the first two
periods to build a 7-2 lead against Weekes -- after Irbe allowed six
goals in Wednesday night's loss at San Jose. Weekes, who won his
first two starts after returning from a concussion, is 0-9 since
with a 3.95 goals-against average.

Aulin, who put 17 shots on net in his previous 15 NHL games
without any goals, beat Weekes to the stick side with a 25-foot
wrist shot at 2:19 of the first period. Kings goalie Jamie Storr
earned his third career assist on the play, and the rout was on.

Mikko Eloranta set up Chartrand's goal nine seconds after
serving an interference penalty. Smolinski scored his second of the
game with three seconds left on a two-man advantage and 39 seconds
to go in the second period.

Game notes
Aulin and Corvo are among seven Kings players to make their
NHL debuts this season. ... The Hurricanes did not lose more than
three consecutive games at any time last season, and did not drop
more than two straight on the road. ... Murray (139-121-40) joined
Bob Pulford and Larry Robinson as the only Kings coaches to reach
the 300-game mark. ... Hurricanes captain Bob Francis, who had a
league-leading 42 points on the power play last season, has seven
goals and 11 assists during man-advantage situations this season.