Series (Game 3 of 5)

Los Angeles leads 4-1

Game 1: Saturday, November 24th
Game 2: Saturday, January 12th
Game 3: Monday, March 18th
Game 4: Saturday, March 23rd
Game 5: Saturday, April 13th

Kings 3

(34-22-4, 81 pts)

Sharks 2

(36-22-3, 83 pts)

10:30 PM ET, March 18, 2002

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
LA 1 0 23
SJ 0 0 22

K. Belanger (Kings - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

A. Deadmarsh (Kings - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. Ricci (Sharks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

Kings trail division-leading Sharks by two points

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Ken Belanger sported seven fresh stitches on his eyebrow, a few spots of caked blood in his right ear -- and the broad grin of an enforcer who improbably discovered his scoring touch.

Ken Belanger

Ken Belanger celebrates his first career two-goal game.

Belanger scored his first two goals of the season, then drew the penalty that led to Adam Deadmarsh's game-winner with 5:44 left as Los Angeles beat San Jose 3-2 Monday night.

The victory pushed the Kings within two points of the Sharks atop the Pacific Division, and they owed much of it to the scoring and smarts of Belanger, a journeyman best known for his defense and his fists. Instead, he had the first two-goal game of his 229-game NHL career.

"It's more of a team victory," Belanger said sheepishly as Deadmarsh and Jamie Storr shouted catcalls across the locker room at their rarely interviewed teammate.

"I'm not doing cartwheels over getting two goals. I'm just glad we got the two points, because this was a big game in the division race."

Belanger has never scored more than three goals in any of his eight seasons, but he fired two slap shots past Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who made 27 saves.

The Kings blew a two-goal lead in the third period, but they got a big break when Sharks captain Owen Nolan drew a careless four-minute penalty for high-sticking Belanger, who excelled in his defensive assignment against San Jose's leading scorer, with 6:22 to play.

Less than a minute later, Jason Allison fed Deadmarsh in the slot for his team-leading 26th goal. The Kings won their fourth straight game and tightened the division race between two teams that haven't won a division title in the last 11 years.

"It's been an incredible year in the standings," Deadmarsh said. "We're just trying to keep up and get ahead."

Though San Jose ended the game with 47.5 seconds of 6-on-4 play, Felix Potvin made several of his 22 saves as Los Angeles beat its upstate rival for the third straight time.

"They gave us a tough time. Historically, they do," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter said. "Los Angeles proved last year that they're a better team than the San Jose Sharks. When we play them, we're big underdogs, regardless of what the standings are."

Marco Sturm and Scott Thornton scored in the third period for the Sharks, but their momentum was short-circuited by Nolan's penalty, which allowed Los Angeles' vaunted power play to go to work. Nolan threw a hard elbow at Belanger at mid-ice, and his stick blade pierced Belanger's face on the follow-through.

Nolan has a history of taking inopportune penalties with impetuous play, such as the dangerous hit on Dallas' Grant Marshall last season that led to Nolan's month-long suspension.

"That's not acceptable on Owen's part," Sutter said. "Situations like that cost you games. Nobody feels worse than him, but those kinds of things can't happen."

San Jose finished a stretch of four home games in six days with just one victory, while the Kings are picking up speed in the season's final weeks.

Los Angeles hasn't won a division title since Wayne Gretzky's heyday in 1991, while the Sharks have never won a title in their 11-year history.

The Sharks, who committed five sloppy penalties in the first two periods, killed 62 seconds of a two-man disadvantage late in the second, but Belanger got his second goal early in the third on a drop pass from Deadmarsh.

Thornton ended Potvin's shutout bid with slightly more than 13 minutes to play when he hammered home Mike Ricci's centering pass from the slot. It was the first sign of life from the Sharks, who had just 11 shots before the goal.

Five minutes later, Sturm tied it after an outstanding play by Sharks rookie Matt Bradley, who fought off a hard check and made a one-handed centering pass to Sturm.

"We didn't come out hard, and then we lit it up for the third," Sturm said. "We were playing like it was a playoff game for one period. We have to get the mindset to play hard right away."

Sharks left wing Stephane Matteau was removed from the ice on a stretcher early in the second period after colliding with Los Angeles' Bryan Smolinski. The Sharks said Matteau had no impaired movement, but he was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

Game notes

Bradley has a three-game points streak. ... Kings left wing Craig Johnson left the game in the first period with blurred vision from an unspecified hit. His absence led to increased ice time for Belanger. ... The teams meet again at Staples Center on Saturday.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press