WINNIPEG, Canada — It is time to recall a sports adage: Playing well is the best revenge .
Ask the Kings' Morris Lukowich, who Friday night scored two goals against a team that traded him after seven years of service. Ask Roland Melanson, who, after sitting on the bench collecting a big salary and an even bigger persecution complex, has started four games in goal for the Kings and has yet to lose.
Ask any King who had to endure taunting from around the National Hockey League as the team floundered earlier in the season. To show them all, it seemed, the Kings scored a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets Friday night before 14,988 fans at Winnipeg Arena.
How bitter was the loss for Winnipeg? It is a team embroiled in a fight for first place in the Smythe Division. It had won eight of its last nine games and wanted revenge for a body check by the Kings' Dave (Tiger) Williams a week ago that sidelined its key defensive player.
The Jets (12-7-1) could have used some defense. They generated one goal in the second period, by Brad Berry, but allowed the Kings (8-11-2 overall and 3-0-1 on this road trip) to score four goals in the third.
"The first 10 minutes I said to myself, 'Holy cow, it looks like we're going to be blown out of the building,' " King Coach Pat Quinn said. "Rollie (Melanson) put the stopper on them, and we came back with two quick goals."
Melanson had 22 saves, and his 11 saves in the first period bought time while the Kings got their offense untracked.
Phil Sykes tied it at 3:12 of the third period, and Lukowich scored 3 1/2 minutes later on a power play to give the Kings the lead for good. Lukowich and Sean McKenna added the last two goals, at 9:47 and 19:41, respectively.
Lukowich was nervous before the game. "It's special playing here," he said afterward.
Melanson is 3-0-1 in his four recent starts. Asked to recall the last time he was on this kind of roll, he laughed and said: "Do I look like I can remember that far back?"
As for Williams, he was the subject of a week's worth of indignant headlines in the Winnipeg Sun, a splashy tabloid. At issue was the body check that Williams put on Jet defenseman Randy Carlyle in the Jets' 6-5 win in Los Angeles last week. Williams received a boarding penalty for smacking Carlyle headfirst against the boards. Carlyle has missed four games with whiplash.
The Jet management sent tapes of the incident to the league, hoping for a match penalty to be levied against Williams, who holds the NHL record as the most-penalized player in history. Any player assessed a match penalty is automatically suspended until a league hearing.
While the Kings were traveling to Winnipeg from Chicago Thursday, the league reviewed the tape and said Williams' check didn't warrant the match penalty.
The Winnipeg management went wild, and so did the press. "Tiger Gets Off Scot Free," read one headline. "King Wild Man Comes To Town," read another.
Williams was typically delighted by the attention. "I guess it had been going on for a whole week," he said. "It's typical of this part of the country. Hockey is the No. 1 sport."
Going into Friday night's game, the thinking was that the Jets were going to go after Williams, to take him out of the game. After a week of fanning the flames, the Winnipeg newspapers all but predicted blood on the ice. Williams' father, who had come in on a plane for the game, suggested his son should get a 10% cut of the gate, since the promise of his spilled blood brought an overflow of the city's citizens out, despite snowy and icy streets.
As is the case in most media buildups, there was no payoff.
"They played it fairly smart," Williams said. "I was hoping they would come running at me more than they did. Anything we can use to our advantage, we will. I think it helped us."
King goaltender coach Phil Myre is 2 for 2 on predictions this trip. He predicted that Bob Janecyk would have a good game in Washington. Janecyk played well, and the Kings won. He told Lukowich after Friday morning's skate that he would get a couple of goals. Lukowich did. . . . The Kings will play the Jets here again Sunday night before going to Vancouver for a game against the Canucks Tuesday night.