So accustomed are the Kings to playing before almost Little League-sized crowds that when the full 16,005 fans actually show up for a home game, the Kings appear bewildered and slightly spacey.
Thus, their 6-3 loss Friday night to the Minnesota North Stars in front of a full house in the Forum might be attributed to equal parts stage fright and defensive might--from Minnesota.
The Kings were pushed around in their own zone, and Minnesota goaltender Don Beaupre had 29 saves to effectively stop the Kings in the North Star zone.
The last time the Kings entertained a sellout crowd at home, they were trampled by the Edmonton Oilers, 8-1. Just as in that Jan. 3 game, the King faithful filed out early, booing as they left.
The Kings (21-22-6) fell out of .500 status the first game after they reached it and remained five points behind third-place Calgary in the National Hockey League's Smythe Division. The North Stars, who have won four of their last five games, raised their record to 22-21-5 and remained in first place in the rather underwhelming Norris Division, a point ahead of Detroit.
Though the score was not as damaging as the Edmonton game, the loss was just as pitiful. The game was dotted with missed assignments, missed passes and missed chances.
The loss was the Kings' first in six games after four wins and a tie.
The puck was taking odd bounces in the third period, up and away from players on both teams. Line rushes were aborted after passes clanged off sticks or were poked away.
As a result, there was probably more skating in the third period than in the first two combined.
The Kings had two power play chances in the third, but Don Beaupre was solid in stopping even the most blistering shot.
The North Stars' Neal Broten scored an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left in the game, his second goal of the night. It was the 15th time this season that the Kings had pulled their goaltender and the seventh time they had given up an empty-net goal.
The first two periods belied the current opinion that Minnesota can't score unless it's coming from Dino Ciccarelli. Dirk Graham scored only two minutes into the game, signaling the start of the five goals in two periods and the beginning of King goaltender Rollie Melanson's long night.
The Kings tied it three minutes later on a goal by defenseman Steve Duchesne, but credit Bernie Nicholls with more than an assist.
Nicholls engineered the goal by carrying the puck from the red line across the Minnesota blue line. Nicholls with the puck means all available defensemen rush 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, the North Stars mounted a series of rushes. They got the lead at 2-1 when Brian MacLellan skated around defenseman Dean Kennedy and, with Melanson out of the goalmouth, scored into an open net.
Jimmy Carson's goal at 16:18 brought the Kings back to 2-2. But the second period was a different story and one of frustration for the Kings. They worked hard, but against a grinding Minnesota scheme of persistent checking, the Kings were knocked off the puck.
It looked desperate after the North Stars went ahead, 5-2, on goals by Brian Bellows and Broten. The Kings' cause brightened only little when, with 30 seconds left in the second period, Craig Redmond knocked in his first goal of the season.
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 in New Haven, Conn., for conditioning purposes. Janecyk has been plagued with a series of problems: a neck injury, a long illness and, finally, a severe arm rash.