NEW YORK — Most of the attention before Wednesday night's game between the Kings and the New York Rangers centered on the Rangers' Marcel Dionne, who would attempt to score his 700th career goal against his former teammates.
But Dionne failed to score and played only a secondary role during a 4-3 victory by the Kings, and much of the focus shifted to one of the two players for whom Dionne was traded to the Rangers.
Bobby Carpenter, who had two assists in Tuesday night's 4-4 tie at Pittsburgh, scored a goal and assisted on another as the Kings, wining at Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1984, ran their unbeaten streak to three games before a crowd of 16,179.
Rookie goaltender Glenn Healy denied Dionne on his only shot of the game, from right in front of the net in the first period, made several acrobatic saves in the second period and stopped 31 shots in all to pick up his first career victory.
As for Carpenter, who has tripled his season point total the last two nights, it was another strong performance.
Co-owner Bruce McNall of the Kings said this month that the deal that sent Dionne to New York and brought Carpenter and defenseman Tom Laidlaw to Los Angeles last March was "the trade of a lifetime."
Carpenter's potential was such, McNall said, that he is "like untapped oil."
But through the Kings' first eight games, Carpenter's offensive production was limited to a goal and an assist.
Meanwhile, Dionne had 6 goals and 5 assists for the Rangers and moved within a goal of joining Gordie Howe and Phil Esposito as the only players in National Hockey League history to score 700 goals in their careers.
Still, Coach Mike Murphy of the Kings insisted that Carpenter, who once scored 53 goals in a season for the Washington Capitals, has been asked to play a variety of roles for the Kings and has performed them well.
"I'm asking for a lot of different commitments from him and I appreciate the fact that I've played some games with his head, and he's always just given me 100%," Murphy said.
"Sometimes it doesn't show up in the statistics, but he's done a heck of a job for us."
Against the Rangers, on a night that shaped up as a possible showcase for Dionne, Carpenter's contributions showed up in the statistics.
He assisted on a second-period goal that gave the Kings a 2-1 lead, leaving the puck just outside the left circle for Paul Fenton and then screening goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck by skating through the slot as Fenton shot.
The Rangers tied it on a goal by Lucien DeBlois only 10 seconds later, but Carpenter scored at 1:02 of the third period to put the Kings ahead to stay.
On that play, Jim Fox lifted a shot from the left circle that Carpenter, standing to the right of the goalmouth, batted out of the air with his stick and past Vanbiesbrouck.
Carpenter, who had passed to Fox, said it was a broken play.
"I made a brutal pass," he said. "Then he threw it back to me, and I said, 'All right, good, here it is.' And I was lucky enough to get it out of the air. . . . I needed a break."
After being traded twice last season, Carpenter said he spent a lot of time last summer fishing near his home in Massachusetts and talking to himself.
"I'd come home from fishing, sit in the dark and really get upset with myself," he said. "We'd just built this beautiful half-million-dollar house, and I'd say, 'If I don't get my rear in gear, I might not be here next year. I might have to sell the place.' "
Despite his lack of offensive production so far, Carpenter said he is not discouraged. And playing a variety of roles--he was moved to left wing in training camp, then back to center when Bernie Nicholls broke a finger 2 1/2 weeks ago--has helped him stay mentally sharp, he said.
"I'm happy as long as I know I'm involved in the game and playing the way I can play," he said. "I think the last few years I hadn't played well."