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FINAL SCORE: ST. LOUIS 3, LOS ANGELES 1
LOS ANGELES (AP)- Dallas Drake scored twice in a 2:32 span of the first period and the St. Louis Blues gave coach Andy Murray a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in his return to Staples Center.
Bill Guerin also scored and David Backes and Jay McClement each had two assists. Manny Legace made 33 saves against the team he broke in with in 1998-99.
Murray, whose 215 regular-season wins during his five-plus seasons as Kings coach are the most in franchise history, guided the team to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons with them. He was fired last March 21 after a 5-0 home loss the night before to Colorado dropped the team's record to 38-27-5.
The Blues hired Murray on Dec. 11 after firing Mike Kitchen, and are 11-4-4 in their first 19 games under their new coach- including wins over Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.
Ironically, on the night of Murray's return to Los Angeles, he found his former team at the bottom of the Western Conference standings under Marc Crawford- who guided Colorado to a Stanley Cup title in 1996. The Blues are 3-0 against the Kings with Murray behind the bench, outscoring them 14-8.
The crowd of 16,544 saluted Murray when his face was shown on the video board above center ice during a timeout in the first period. At the bottom of the screen were the words: "Thank you Andy for seven years of tireless effort and dedication to the Kings."
The Kings, who have surrendered plenty of soft goals this season, gave up two more in the first period to fall behind 2-0. Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky gave up the puck to Backes behind the net, and McClement took a weak backhander from the slot that Drake redirected through Barry Brust's legs at 12:16.
The Blues' captain added his fifth goal of the season at 14:48 when Backes' 40-foot wrist shot from above the left circle deflected off Drake's skate and between Brust's legs. It was Drake's eighth career two-goal game, first since Dec. 2, 2003- also against the Kings in a 4-1 victory at St. Louis.
The final 1:46 of the first period was tacked onto the second period because the arena crew wasn't able to replace a pane of glass quickly enough. When the teams returned, Yutaka Fukufuji was in front of the Kings' net instead of Brust and gave up Guerin's 19th goal at 9:30 of the second.
It was Fukufuji's home debut, and the 24-year-old native of Kushiro, Japan, made 17 saves. Fukufuji gave up a goal on five shots in a relief role last Saturday at St. Louis, then allowed three goals on nine shots in his first NHL start on 16 in Atlanta before Brust relieved him.
The victory was the Blues' ninth on the road, one more than all of last season, when they finished with the worst record in the NHL and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1979. They played without right wing Dan Hinote and defenseman Jay McKee, both of whom were injured in Saturday's 6-5 win against the Kings at St. Louis.
Game notes They Kings are 16-27-6 in their first 49 games under Crawford. They were 23-22-4 in their final 49 games with Murray, who replaced Larry Robinson before the 1999-00 campaign and was 21-21 with seven ties in his first 49 games with Los Angeles. ... Luc Robitaille, benched for three consecutive games by Murray in December 2005, will become the fifth player to have his uniform number retired by the Kings in a lavish ceremony before Saturday's game against Phoenix. No. 20 will be unveiled along the west wall at Staples Center next to those of Marcel Dionne, Rogie Vachon, Dave Taylor and current Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky. ... The Kings were short-handed for 4 of the final 6 minutes after Raitis Ivanans cut Dennis Wideman above the left eye with a high stick.