Mike Murphy made a command decision Friday morning, thinking that by giving his team the morning off, they'd be fresh at night for the game against Minnesota.
What actually happened was that the Kings were fresh in the morning, then rested during the game.
The North Stars skated right through the Kings, scoring a 6-3 win before a sellout Forum crowd of 16,005.
What was the explanation for the way the North Stars outskated, outchecked and outscored the Kings?
Blame it on Murphy's Law.
"We weren't sharp tonight--I'll take the blame for it," said Murphy, the assistant coach who has replaced the expelled Pat Quinn behind the Kings' bench. "I restricted the whole team, except for the ones not playing tonight, from going out on the ice for the morning skate."
When asked why, Murphy said: "We've played a lot of games recently, traveling. "I thought the rest should be to our advantage. We didn't get going (tonight) until the third period."
By then, Minnesota had raced to a 5-3 lead and had the Kings wincing every time a North Star skated near.
"They hit us hard," King defenseman Dean Kennedy said.
Where it hit the Kings was smack in the record. One game after they reached .500, they were knocked down to 21-22-6 and remained five points behind idle third-place Calgary in the Smythe Division. The North Stars, who have won four of their last five games, raised their record to 22-21-5 and held first place by a point over Detroit in the rather underwhelming Norris Division.
The rested Kings, who had not lost in their previous five games, going 4-0-1, barely woke from their naps in the first period. With Minnesota's attack coming at full speed, the Kings reverted to old and bad habits under the pressure.
"If, at the start of the game, you lose the one-on-ones, you lose confidence," Kennedy said. "When that happens, you get everybody trying to do everybody else's job. When you play as a team, and everybody does his own job, everything falls into place."
This time, everything seemed to fall into the Kings' goal.
"They were attacking us with great speed," Murphy said. "We were turning the puck over. It's tough for you defensively when you have those players coming at you."
The first two periods belied the current opinion that Minnesota can't score unless the shot is coming from the stick of Dino Ciccarelli. The speedy right wing has 64 points, the third-highest total in the National Hockey League. "He's a big scorer, you have to watch him," the Kings' Luc Robitaille said.
While the Kings were staring at Ciccarelli and holding him to one assist, five other North Stars scored Friday night. Neal Broten had two goals.
Dirk Graham scored only two minutes into the game, signaling the start of five goals in two periods for Minnesota and the beginning of King goaltender Rollie Melanson's long night.
Melanson had 26 saves on 31 shots (not counting Minnesota's last score, which was an empty-net goal), and Minnesota's Don Beaupre had 33 saves on 36 shots.
Three minutes after Graham's goal, the Kings tied the score on a goal by defenseman Steve Duchesne, but Bernie Nicholls should get credit for more than an assist.
Nicholls engineered the goal by carrying the puck from the red line across the Minnesota blue line, deking and shedding Minnesota skaters all the way.
Nicholls with the puck meant all available defensemen rushed to pick him up. When this happened, Nicholls centered a pass from the left side, and Duchesne beat Beaupre high for the goal.
From there, it was all North Star rushes on offense--and King rushes to get back on defense.
"Tonight, we gave up too many outnumbered attacks, too many one-on-ones," Kennedy said.
The North Stars got the lead at 2-1 when Brian MacLellan skated around Kennedy, who had slipped, and, with Melanson out of the goalmouth, scored into an open net at 11:49. Then Jimmy Carson's goal at 16:18 brought the Kings back to 2-2.
The second period was a story of frustration for the Kings. They worked hard, but against a grinding Minnesota scheme of persistent checking, the Kings were knocked off the puck.
"They played really well," the Kings' Bryan Erickson said. "They were hitting us, checking us, coming at us. It was relentless pressure."
It looked desperate for the Kings after the North Stars went ahead, 5-2, on goals by Brian Bellows at 6:34, Broten at 8:27 and Keith Acton at 18:42. The Kings' cause brightened only slightly when, with 30 seconds left in the second period, defenseman Craig Redmond knocked in his first goal of the season.
The Kings pulled Melanson with 42 seconds left in the game, and Broten scored into the empty net at 19:34. It was the 15th time the Kings have pulled their goaltender this season and the seventh empty-net goal they have allowed.
King Notes The Kings have sent goaltender Bob Janecyk, who has played in only one of the team's last 31 games, to their affiliate at New Haven, Conn., for conditioning purposes. Janecyk has been plagued with a series of problems--a neck injury, a long illness and, most recently, a severe arm rash. . . . Minnesota's Scott Bjugstad suffered bruised ribs in the third period and left the game. . . . The North Stars are hanging around through the weekend. About 18 of them are attending Sunday's Super Bowl.