The first ten minutes of the third period Wednesday night the Kings were in their three-piece-suit--conservative and close to the vest.
Even with a two-goal lead over the New Jersey Devils--a franchise that has won once ever at the Forum--the Kings were mindful of past collapses and took care of the puck as if were a precious heirloom.
The reward for their patience was a 6-2 win before a crowd of 8,446, and a return to .500. The Kings are 22-22-6 and have lost just once of their last seven games.
The flu-ridden New Jersey team, which had played in New York Monday night, is 20-26-5 and has lost four of its last six.
"We were patient in the third period," assistant coach Mike Murphy said. "Our guys played a really smart game. I give our guys credit for a very strong two-way effort."
Goaltender Darren Eliot, who was a big part of that third-quarter stand, got the win for the Kings in his first start since Jan. 10. That was the first game after the NHL expelled King Coach Pat Quinn and the players said they played in a daze in an 8-5 loss to Buffalo.
"It was my own fault," Eliot said of that one. "I approached it like I had played the day before. Unfortunately, I hadn't played the day before."
Eliot had been playing well before then, winning five in a row.
With a 4-0 margin after one period, Eliot allowed both goals in the second period as the Kings continued to out-shoot opponents. Wednesday night it was 41-28.
The Kings, while overpowering, were not completely satisfied with their 4-2 lead going into the third period. Both teams knew the next goal would be crucial.
"If there had been a third goal by them instead of a fifth goal for us . . . " Murphy mused, not wanting to finish the thought.
Fortunately for the Kings, they got the goal. It came Bryan Erickson off a pass from Morris Lukowich on a power play at 16:07.
Luc Robitaille scored on his only shot on goal, 39 seconds later, to complete the scoring.
Marcel Dionne's was given a penalty shot at 18:31 in the third, but New Jersey goaltender Alain Chevrier made the save.
The bigger and slower Devils had a devil of a time handling the puck in the first two periods, especially in their own zone.
"They are a team that can really check you into the ice," Murphy said. "We had to get the jump and get the advantage."
They did just that, scoring four goals in the first period, while holding the Devils scoreless.
The oft-injured, oft-recalled Paul Guay scored his first goal since returning to the Kings after a knee injury. Guay has been skating at New Haven while rehabilitating.
The luckless right winger was injured Nov. 25--the first game he played for the Kings after not dressing for the nine previous games.
Bernie Nicholls got his 17th of the season after Jimmy Carson won a draw in the Devil zone and it was 2-0.
The Kings work was made easier as the Devils either failed to clear the puck or fired errant passes that ended up on King sticks.
Jim Fox scored at the end of a barrage of King shots, the last two from Nicholls and Dave (Tiger) Williams. Fox scored into an unprotected net when most of the New Jersey defense had fallen down.
Jimmy Carson was falling, too, but managed score the Kings' final goal of the period before he hit the ice. That power-play score made it 4-0 after the opening period.
The Kings had fired 20 shots at New Jersey goaltender Alain Chevrier in the period.
Perhaps New Jersey Coach Doug Carpenter would have liked to have pulled the struggling Chevrier, but his backup goaltender, Craig Billington, was dressed and on the bench, but ill with the flu.
The Kings continued the offensive pressure in the second period but failed to score despite a flurry of shots at Chevrier.
The Devils gave Chevrier some measure of help with power-play scores from Mark Johnson and Doug Sulliman.
King Notes King defenseman Larry Playfair played his first game since injuring his knee. . . . King forward Bob Bourne did not play Wednesday. He was in New York, where his family still lives, on personal business. . . . The four goals in the first period was the most first-period goals the Kings have scored this season.