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Kings Are Getting Hang of It

December 23, 1986|JULIE CART | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY — Call it a rebirth, call it a renewal, call it fooling fate. Whatever this thing is, it's helping the Kings win hockey games and they think it's about time.

The Kings will say they are just getting what they deserve, winning these games that they once were supposed to lose. They will say that, after getting burned almost every time they enter the Saddledome, it's time things changed.

The Kings, 9-25-8 at the Saddledome, were winless in their last seven games here.

But they beat the Flames, 5-3, Monday night and it now appears the Kings (15-17-3) are rewarding Coach Pat Quinn's patience.

It has been Quinn who faces reporters after every quirky King loss or crazy win and tells reporters how his team is coming around.

A win over Calgary--last season's Stanley Cup finalist and currently in second place in the Smythe Division with a 20-14-1 record--goes a long way to proving Quinn correct in his assessment of his team.

"I'd like to feel that our guys are finding the way to win," Quinn said. "No more acceptance of mediocrity. We're a team that had done that in the past. We have to toss that out the door."

Quinn was delighted with the win and the way in which the Kings did it--with a tight, disciplined defense and opportunistic offense.

He's even happier when he looks at the win in the context of a rough schedule. The Kings are in the middle of what Quinn sees as the most difficult portion of their schedule. It began with games against Calgary and Edmonton at home. Both were losses.

The Kings then shut out Pittsburgh and tied Edmonton on the road Saturday night.

"Realistically, we could look at this 10-game segment and we could have not won a game out of it," Quinn said. "Of the goals we set for ourselves, (reaching) .500 is the first. When we get there, we'll rethink. (Achieving) .500 may look after quite a few things. I'm not just talking about making the playoffs. A playoff spot is not good enough for our team."

If the Smythe Division race remains roughly the same as it is now, the Kings would have to finish ahead of Vancouver to make the playoffs.

The Kings play at Vancouver tonight, their last game before Christmas, then entertain Boston and Philadelphia before going back on the road for another game at Vancouver.

With these obstacles, the Kings will have to play as well as Quinn says they can in order to move up on third-place Winnipeg.

They played well enough in the first two periods, which were slow-paced and carefully executed.

Morris Lukowich's goal at 3:30 in the first period gave the Kings a 1-0 lead that held for the rest of the period.

After shutting down Calgary's second power play of the game early in the second period, the Kings scored at 8:51. Steve Duchesne took a shot from the left side that bounced off the pads of Calgary goaltender Mike Vernon. Jimmy Carson scored on the rebound.

Joe Mullen scored the first Calgary goal on a power play late in the period.

That goal brought out something among the players, and it wasn't common sense. A fight broke out involving all the players on the ice. Paul Baxter of the Flames started it but everyone else claimed it as his own and tried to finish it.

Surprisingly, only four players were penalized. The aftermath gave the Kings a power play with 44 seconds left in the period.

After a prodigious amount of passing, the Kings finally took a shot. Jay Wells' wrist shot from the right point bounced out to Marcel Dionne. Dionne flipped the puck high to score with one second left in the period.

Quinn said that goal could have made the Flames angry and given them a boost in the final period. It didn't happen.

The King penalty-killing was excellent, overcoming two penalties in the period and allowing one power play goal.

Jim Fox and Dave (Tiger) Williams scored for the Kings late goals to keep the Flames on low.

King goaltender Rollie Melanson had 36 saves in his first start since Dec. 10.

King Notes

Neither team was particularly healthy Monday night. The Kings continue to lose players to knee injuries, the popular ailment at the moment. With five players injured, the Flames juggled lines, too. Forwards Lanny McDonald and Doug Risebrough both have knee injuries, as does defenseman Gary Suter. McDonald leads the Flames with the most points in a career against the Kings. Bernie Nicholls compounded the Flames' problems when his shoulder check to Colin Patterson in the first period kept the Flame left wing out of the rest of the game. . . . Calgary goaltender Mike Vernon's record (18-8-1) ranks second among NHL goaltenders. . . . The highlight of the first period was when a fan offered a marriage proposal via the scoreboard.

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