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Because the Kings Break Even With the Rangers, They Can't Break Even With Themselves

January 20, 1987|JULIE CART | Times Staff Writer

The problem with setting goals is that if you don't achieve them, they sit there and make fun of you until you do.

That's the way it has been for the Kings, who have been playing (and losing) a cat and mouse game with a .500 record. They have been close. Awfully close. However, the moment the Kings are one win from their goal, you can be sure that will be the game they lose.

Or tie, as they did Monday night against the New York Rangers before 11,091 in the Forum. For the second game in a row, the Kings were tied. This time, it was 2-2.

Monday night's game was the sixth time the Kings have been one victory away from .500. If they don't get there soon, they may be sorry they ever brought it up.

Still, it was difficult for the Kings (20-21-6) to be disappointed with the game. They got a point and they made one, too. Perhaps to themselves.

"It was a terrific game," King interim coach Mike Murphy said. "There was 100% effort from both teams all night. We had a superb effort. Our guys went to the well. It would have been easy at 2-1 not to give the effort we did."

That alone is proof of the Kings' progress this season. Reaching .500 may be less important than the team's maturing.

Two figures in that seasoning process are King goaltender Rollie Melanson and rookie defenseman Steve Duchesne. Melanson put in another solid effort, stopping 35 shots and making key saves. He has lost only one game in his last 10 starts, going 6-1-3 in that time.

Duchesne has been a pleasant surprise. He is not the stay-at-home defenseman the Kings had wanted, but he can use his speed to get back when he's needed. And Duchesne is helping in another needed category--scoring. He scored the tying goal Monday night, on an off-balance shot 7:54 into the third period.

That made it 2-2 and resulted in the game going into overtime. The Kings had no shots, and the Rangers got off only two in the extra period, but the first was a quality one.

Walt Poddubny's shot forced Melanson to make a diving save.

Afterward, Melanson was asked what had happened on the shot.

"He almost scored, that's what happened," he said. "I dove and it hit me in the palm of my glove hand."

Two power-play goals in the first two periods were all the fireworks created by the teams in the first half. It was a matchup that some had thought would bring out more offensive activity than that.

"I was concerned that with several days off we would be flat, (but) we came out strong," Ranger Coach Tom Webster said. It was the first trip Webster has made with the team since he had surgery on his inner ear, which prevented him from flying.

Strong defensive play by both teams characterized the game. For the Rangers (18-20-8), aggressive forechecking by their forwards gave the Kings trouble entering the New York zone. For the Kings, Melanson was all the defense they needed.

Melanson made two excellent saves early in the game when the Kings' were on the power play.

On the first shot, Don Maloney appeared to be on his way to scoring a short-handed goal. He was alone on a breakaway and fired low on the stick side. Melanson got the save off his blocking glove.

The second big save was off a shot by Kelly Kisio, after the Kings' defensemen got beat.

"It was definitely a goaltenders' battle out there," Melanson said. "They threw everything at us in the first period. I'm sure they had 10 quality shots."

It was defenseman Grant Ledyard, a former Ranger, who got the first goal for the Kings. Ledyard took a cross-ice pass from Jay Wells and ripped a slap shot that beat Ranger goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck high.

The Rangers answered with a goal with seven seconds remaining in the first period. Tomas Sandstrom took a hard shot and Melanson made a good kick save. The rebound came right back to Sandstrom, who put it in for the tie.

The Rangers outskated the Kings through much of the second period and came close to scoring when, on a power play, James Patrick missed a shot at an open net.

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