TORONTO — An improbable 6-6 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night may have finally broken the patience of Rogie Vachon, the Kings' general manager.
Vachon joined the Kings Saturday for the final two games of a four-game trip, making the transcontinental flight from Los Angeles, he said, "to see what the hell was going on."
What he saw was the Kings squander leads of 5-1 and 6-2 before a crowd of 16,382 at Maple Leaf Gardens.
"How many times are we going to self-destruct like this," an angry Vachon said afterward. "It seems like just about every night it's the same thing. This is absolutely ridiculous . . . "If some of these guys are afraid to play because they hear rumors that they're going to be traded, mark my words: It's not going to be rumors pretty soon."
The Kings, who blew a 3-1 lead in the last 6 1/2 minutes of a 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night, took a four-goal lead into the final minute of the second period against a Maple Leaf team that had won only one of its last seven games and was 0-7 in games in which it trailed after two periods.
Miroslav Frycer capped the comeback with 1:02 left, scoring from the slot after taking a pass from Vincent Damphousse, who had stolen the puck in the Kings' zone from Luc Robitaille.
"He made a very poor play," Coach Mike Murphy said of Robitaille.
He wasn't the only one.
"Half the team is making bonehead plays," Vachon said.
In fact, when Murphy excused several players from Friday's practice, presumably because he was unhappy with their play, he was left with only half a team--10 healthy players.
While assistant coach Bryan Maxwell ran the practice, Murphy met in the locker room with the other half--Jimmy Carson, Rollie Melanson, Dean Kennedy, Bernie Nicholls, Sean McKenna, Bob Carpenter, Wayne McBean, Jay Wells, Steve Duchesne, Tim Tookey and Robitaille.
Murphy suggested later that he wanted to give the Kings' most frequently used players a day off, but when that was mentioned to several players, they all laughed.
And captain Dave Taylor, who was allowed to practice, said: "Whatever message he had for those players was meant to be kept within these walls among the players and the coach."
Murphy sent another message after the Kings had scored four power-play goals and built a 5-1 lead against the Maple Leafs in the first 16 minutes 59 seconds, only to let it slip away.
He said the Kings were "selfish" and added: "I can accept anything but that."
Like Vachon, he suggested that maybe it was time to make some changes.
The Kings have allowed 34 goals in 5 games and have given up at least 4 in each of their last 10 games. Despite a verbal commitment to defense, they've allowed more goals than any other team in the National Hockey League.
"I have to start questioning some of the personnel we have here," Murphy said. "They're obviously not willing to do the job. We've got to get better players if (these players) won't do the job that's asked of them. . . .
"Many of our players just aren't willing to pay the price defensively. Maybe it means not scoring that extra goal or getting that extra assist, but (playing a defensive style) means winning. We have a lot of players who aren't willing to make that sacrifice and that transition."
Taylor said the Kings were apprehensive entering the third period, although they led, 6-3.
"As much as we talked about trying to go at them, trying to force the play, I think maybe we had it in the back of our mind that we had to hold on," he said. "I think when you go into the third period with a three-goal lead, you should go into it with a positive attitude. But I thought we sat back."
As they did, the Maple Leafs, who scored with 13 seconds left in the second period, cut the Kings' lead to 6-4 just 44 seconds into the third on a shot from the point by Al Iafrate.
With 5:22 left, a rebound of a shot by Rick Lanz caromed off the skate of Mark Osborne to Ed Olyczk, whose shot from in front of the net made it 6-5.
"They weren't even in the game, and all of a sudden we start fooling around and stop hitting," Vachon said. "It became a wide-open game, but do we start forechecking? Noooo. Ridiculous."
The game-tying goal ended a 13-game drought for Miroslav Frycer, who said: "I just closed my eyes and shot." . . . Bernie Nicholls scored two goals for the Kings, and Bob Carpenter scored one and assisted on three others. . . . The Kings got a goal from Jimmy Carson just 23 seconds into the game, then scored four power-play goals in less than 12 minutes later in the first period to build a 5-1 lead. . . . The Kings, who gave up a club-record 389 goals two seasons ago, have allowed 96 this season, a pace that projects to 384, which is 43 more than they allowed last season. . . . Grant Ledyard is expected to join the Kings for tonight's game at Buffalo after playing three games for the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn.