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Japan's Fukufuji makes NHL debut in Blues' 6-5 victory over Kings

A rare near-capacity crowd saw the Blues come out on top in a seesaw battle for a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The 17,868 fans also saw Kings goalie Yutaka Fukufuji of Japan make his NHL debut and ate for free for most of the contest.

"If it was 2-0 it would have been just as entertaining to me," Murray said. "It had to be fun. It was a lot of downs. I would rather it wasn't quite that exciting."

The score was tied four times with the Blues coming back from one-goal deficits with each of their first three goals. Only once did two goals separate the teams, when Denis Wideman's power-play score against Fukufuji midway through the third period gave the Blues a 6-4 lead.

Fukufuji, the first Japanese player to play in the NHL, entered to start the third in relief of Barry Brust. He faced five shots, but allowed Wideman's goal 7:32 into the period.

Brust allowed five goals in the first two periods.

The 24-year-old Fukufuji was recalled Friday on an emergency basis after Mathieu Garon was placed on injured reserve with an injured finger. Fukufuji became the first Japanese player to dress for an NHL game Dec. 16 against Dallas in another emergency stint.

"I was so nervous," he said. "But I was very excited, too."

Wideman also assisted on a second-period goal by Keith Tkachuk and on Martin Rucinsky's score in the first - both on the power play.

St. Louis scored three times out of eight power-play chances. The Kings converted once in four tries as the teams combined for 28 penalty minutes, including 12 in the final period.

The Blues took the lead for good on Doug Weight's goal late in the second period. His fifth of the season gave the Blues a 5-4 advantage. He also assisted on Rucinsky's goal that tied the game at 1-1 and helped set up Wideman's game-winning goal.

"Yeah it was physical," Weight said. "It's a big win for us and winning this physical game feels good."

The Blues have earned 21 points in their past 14 games.

Rob Blake got the Kings back in the game after he scored a power-play goal with 5:12 left to make it 6-5. It was his second goal of the game. He gave Los Angeles a brief 3-2 lead when he scored 97 seconds into the second period.

"I thought we played a heck of a game," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "We had 90 per cent of our players who played their hearts out tonight. We were deserving of more than we got."

If the game did not provide enough entertainment for the fans, they at least could get their fill of food. The Blues gave away food until the start of the third period. Fans could choose a hot dog or chicken fingers, snacks such as popcorn, peanuts or potato chips, and a soft drink. Each time they went for food, they could get four main dishes, four snacks and four soft drinks.

"It's not a gimmick," Blues President John Davidson said. "It's giving something to the fans to come. It's a way to get people who can't afford it to come. And it's a way for other people to enjoy the product. It's a win-win for everybody."

Notes: Ten different players scored in the game, with only Blake getting multiple goals. ... D Christian Backman returned to the Blues' lineup after sitting out seven games. He injured his right knee Dec. 26 at Nashville. ... It was Murray's second game against the Kings, who fired him last spring, since taking over the Blues. St. Louis won 5-2 on Dec. 21 in the first meeting. ... Saturday's game interrupted a string of seven road games for St. Louis, which went 2-1 in the first three games and plays at Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose in a six-day span starting Monday.


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