LOS ANGELES (AP) - Wayne Gretzky committed the first major mistake of his NHL coaching career against his old team, and nearly got away with it.
The rookie coach was responsible for a mixup in Phoenix's lineup at the start of the game. Right wing Fredrik Sjostrom was on the ice despite being listed as a scratch.
Los Angeles coach Andy Murray knew it and even double-checked the rule book, but had planned on keeping quiet unless Phoenix scored with Sjostrom on the ice, which would have nullified the goal.
But the Kings' stat crew noticed Sjostrom and alerted referees, who ruled Sjostrom ineligible for the rest of the game. Phoenix center Petr Nedved was the actual scratch, but he was listed as being available.
A subdued Gretzky called it an oversight that was ``just inexcusable.''
``It's my responsibility,'' he said. ``It just was utter nonsense that it happened and I feel bad for Freddie and I feel bad for the team. It happened and it won't happen again.''
Murray downplayed Gretzky's rookie mistake, saying, ``It happens all the time. I'm sure it's happened to me before.''
Murray said he would have rather had a goal nullified than have the Coyotes lose a player.
``We didn't want to call it until we needed it,'' he said. ``But unfortunately, the guys upstairs were doing their job and they realized they had the wrong guy.''
As coach, Gretzky signs the lineup sheet before the game. Murray empathized with Gretzky, saying he has an assistant fill out the lineup and double-check it before he signs.
``I mean, you're so used to writing the same names down,'' Murray said. ``I'm afraid I might make that mistake.''
After losing their season opener 5-4 in Dallas on Wednesday, the Kings came out energized for their first regular-season home game in 1 1/2 years.
Alexander Frolov scored the go-ahead goal on a power play in the second period for the Kings.
The Coyotes had a man advantage for most of the final minute, but didn't score. They lost 3-2 at Vancouver on Wednesday.
The coaching milestone of the night belonged to Murray, who became the club's all-time winningest coach with his 179th victory.
``Who would have picked me out of Shattuck's St. Mary's first of all to get the job?'' Murray said. ``So I'm just fortunate I've got the job.''
Gretzky was still the attraction, though.
The sellout crowd of 18,118 cheered loudly when he was shown on the scoreboard late in the second period. He looked up, smiled and gave a brief wave as the song ``Simply the Best'' blared in Staples Center, where his retired No. 99 jersey hangs on the wall. A bronze statue of him stands outside the building, where he never played.
``When I became a King, they always treated me great,'' he said.
Gretzky spent eight seasons in Los Angeles, leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 and surpassing Gordie Howe as hockey's all-time leading goal scorer at the old Forum in Inglewood.
Upon arriving from Edmonton in 1988, Gretzky popularized hockey in Southern California, which led to NHL teams in such other warm weather climates as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. He was traded to St. Louis in 1996 and retired with the New York Rangers in 1999.
Dressed in a tie and camel jacket, Gretzky was a low-key presence on the Coyotes' bench. At times, he watched the action with his arms folded.
Gretzky said losing as a coach is different than as a player.
``When you're coaching, you think about it all night,'' he said. ``It drags on with you a little bit longer, but that's OK, I love it.''
Jason Labarbera made 27 saves for his second NHL victory, and first since the 2003-04 season when he played four games with the New York Rangers.
``He was great,'' Kings newcomer Jeremy Roenick said. ``He stayed sharp and made some big saves when we needed them, especially on a couple of their power plays.''
David Leneveu stopped 25 shots for the Coyotes, who cut their deficit to 3-2 on a power-play rebound goal by Oleg Saprykin in the second period.
The Kings scored two power-play goals in second for a 3-1 lead. Frolov put away a rebound of Pavol Demitra's miss at 8:28. Then with Phoenix's Sean O'Donnell sent off for a delay of game, Demitra scored through Leneveu's legs at 11:28.
``Last night was really deflating,'' Roenick said. ``For us to come back with an energy-filled game shows that this team is ready and poised for a lot of hard work. It's really gratifying.''
The Kings tied the game 1-1 on Luc Robitaille's first goal of the season, a slap shot from the left faceoff circle that sailed above Leneveu's glove at 15:58 of the first.
The Coyotes led 1-0 on a power-play goal by Krystofer Kolanos with 9:52 remaining in the first. Kolanos scored on a shot from the left side with 25 seconds left in a high-sticking penalty against Nathan Dempsey. Brett Hull and Saprykin assisted.
Notes: Murray broke Bob Pulford's franchise record for most career wins. Pulford coached five seasons in the mid-1970s. ... Robitaille needs eight goals to surpass Marcel Dionne as the Kings' career goal scorer. ... Kings LW Jeff Cowan injured his groin and didn't return for the third period.
|PPG - Krystofer Kolanos (1) ASST: Brett Hull (1), Oleg Saprykin (1)|
1 - 0 PHX
|Luc Robitaille (1) ASST: Derek Armstrong (1), Tim Gleason (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Alex Frolov (1) ASST: Pavol Demitra (2), Lubomir Visnovsky (3)|
2 - 1 LAK
|PPG - Pavol Demitra (1) ASST: Alex Frolov (1), Derek Armstrong (2)|
3 - 1 LAK
|PPG - Oleg Saprykin (2) ASST: Mike Johnson (2), Paul Mara (1)|
3 - 2 LAK
|Power Play %||20.0%||19.0%|
|% on Road||23.2%||15.3%|
|% at Home||17.0%||22.1%|
|Sean O'Donnell Holding|
|Sean Avery Elbowing against Mike Leclerc|
|Sean Avery Fighting (maj) against Mike Leclerc|
|Mike Leclerc Instigator against Sean Avery|
|Mike Leclerc Fighting (maj) against Sean Avery|
|Mike Leclerc Misconduct (10 min)|
|Nathan Dempsey Hi-sticking against Oleg Saprykin|
|Mike Ricci Hooking against Alex Frolov|
|Paul Mara Tripping against Sean Avery|
|Sean O'Donnell Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Jeremy Roenick Hooking against Mike Johnson|
|George Parros Roughing against Boyd Devereaux|
|Boyd Devereaux Roughing against George Parros|
|Sean Avery Hooking against Keith Ballard|
|Pavol Demitra Tripping against Keith Ballard|
|Tim Gleason Cross checking against Oleg Saprykin|
|Shane Doan Tripping against Craig Conroy|