EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Goalie Roland Melanson is getting back into form, and it's making a difference for the Kings.
Melanson stopped 32 shots as Los Angeles defeated the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, Saturday.
Bernie Nicholls paced the King offense with two goals, and Dave Taylor capped a three-goal second period with his 297th career goal.
The victory was the Kings' third in four games and gave them a three-point lead over Vancouver and a four-point edge over Winnipeg in the battle for third place in the National Hockey League's Smythe Division.
"For the most part, I liked our game," Coach Pat Quinn said after the Kings posted their first victory in three games against New Jersey this season. "We held them down to two goals-against, and that's the kind of thing we are striving for."
Melanson, acquired in December, is just getting back into action after being sidelined for 13 games because of a groin injury.
"Rollie has been a big factor in the last three games we've played," Quinn said. "We didn't know how serious his groin was when we traded for him. It's strengthened to the point now where he can play . . . and the difference between winning and losing normally is your goaltending."
Melanson's goaltending has always been good against New Jersey. He has a 13-2-0 record against the Devils.
"It's been a long year," Melanson said. "I'm glad to be rid of the groin injury. I'm playing fairly well, which is surprising because I only had three days' practice before I played my first game."
The game was tied, 1-1, until Len Hachborn ignited the Kings' big second period by poking a loose puck past Chico Resch at 6:26.
Less than four minutes later, Joe Paterson extended the lead to 3-1 with another rebound goal. Marcel Dionne got an assist on the play, marking the 11th straight game in which he has scored a point.
Mark Johnson of New Jersey cut the margin to 3-2 less than a minute later, knocking the rebound of a Perry Anderson shot past Melanson at 11:03.
Taylor scored at 13:15 of the second period, skating across the slot and beating Resch with a 10-foot backhander for his 27th goal of the season.
Nicholls opened and closed the scoring for the Kings. He scored on a power play at 12:40 of the opening period and then, with 6:50 remaining in the game, beat Resch with a 10-footer for his 28th goal of the season.
John MacLean had tied the game, 1-1, in the second period, banking his 14th goal of the season off Melanson's pads from a bad angle.