PITTSBURGH — After a lackluster first period Tuesday night in which they fell two goals behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Kings were verbally undressed in their locker room by General Manager Rogie Vachon.
"I couldn't take it anymore," Vachon said.
What did he say?
"You can probably guess," Vachon said, smiling broadly but declining to elaborate. "It's between me and the players."
Whatever he said, it seemed to light a fire under the Kings, who allowed another goal 1:40 into the second period, then rallied from a 4-1 deficit for a 4-4 tie before a crowd of 9,130 at the Civic Arena.
Afterward, the Kings seemed to be in a quandary.
Should they be pleased with themselves for dominating the last few periods of regulation and holding off the Penguins during the overtime, or should they kick themselves for squandering a chance for a victory on the road by playing so poorly in the first 20 minutes?
"We could have won it, there is no question about it," Jimmy Carson said. "We should have won it--if we had played a little smarter in the beginning. But we've got to forget about it and hopefully learn from it. We got a point. At least we have something to show for it."
That's true, but. . . .
"There's no need for the coach to have to come in here every game and scream at us to get us going," said goaltender Rollie Melanson, who faced 16 shots in the first period but only 15 in the next 45 minutes. "If you can't, as a professional, get yourself ready, maybe you should get another job."
When Pittsburgh's Rob Brown scored on a rebound at 1:40 of the second period, the Penguins seemed to be just getting started.
Their crafty center, Mario Lemieux, had scored his 10th and 11th goals in the first period, and the Kings seemed to watch in awe as he scored his second after making a brilliant move behind the net.
"It looked like it was going to get a lot worse," King Coach Mike Murphy said. "We just weren't committed to playing the game. We were out there for a Sunday skate in the park."
Brown's goal made it 4-1 and seemed to get the Kings' attention.
A pair of goals just 2:40 apart by defenseman Mark Hardy and forward Paul Fenton, called up last Saturday from New Haven of the American Hockey League, got the Kings to 4-3 with 4:36 left in the second period.
Bob Carpenter assisted on both goals, doubling his season point total with a nice centering pass to Fenton.
Carpenter, who only three seasons ago became the first American-born player to score as many as 50 goals in a season when he had 53 for the Washington Capitals, has not played poorly despite his lack of production, Murphy said.
"I've been playing around with his emotions a little bit, moving him here, moving him there, asking him this, asking him that," Murphy said of Carpenter, who has moved from left wing to center 2 1/2 weeks ago when Bernie Nicholls broke a finger. "Some nights he's a checker, some nights I'm trying to get offense out of him.
"It hasn't been as cut and dried as the statistics might look. He's contributed in a lot of ways that don't always show up in the stat sheet."
The Kings got a break in the closing seconds of the second period when Lemieux, all alone on a breakaway, had his shot deflected slightly off the glove of Melanson and off the crossbar.
"Maybe that was an omen," Carson said. "If he puts that in. . . . "
Dave Taylor put in the game-tying goal during a power play with 7:09 left in regulation, charging toward the goal and knocking in a pass from behind the net by Carson. Luc Robitaille also picked up an assist on the play, his third of the night to equal a career high established Oct. 10 against St. Louis.
The Kings, victimized on a power play for the 13th time in 47 attempts when Craig Simpson scored in the first period, killed two penalties in the last 5:56 of regulation, allowing the Penguins no shots on goal during either man advantage.
The Kings had a man advantage of their own for the last 1:33 of regulation and the first 27 seconds of overtime but failed to capitalize. They had no shots on goal in the extra period.
Still, "it showed a lot of character to come back like that on the road," Carpenter said.
But a win would have been so much nicer.