MONTREAL — A man who skyrocketed to fame by lending his persona to a battery commercial stayed at the same hotel as the Kings Friday night.
But even the presence of the hyperkinetic, spike-haired Jacko couldn't energize the Kings, whose record--already the worst in the National Hockey League--was further sullied by a 6-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night before a crowd of 16,831 at the Forum.
Of course, not many expected the Kings to beat the Canadiens, whose record of 17-7-6 is the NHL's best.
The Kings, winless in their last five games, are 1-12-2 at Montreal since beating the Canadiens here in 1979. And the Canadiens, who have given up less than 3 goals a game, are 9-0-3 at home since losing to Calgary on Oct. 26.
On the other hand, not many expected the Kings to be floundering at 7-16-4 a third of the way into the season.
Al Strachan of the Toronto Globe and Mail reported in Friday's editions that "there are now whispers that the Kings don't want to play for Coach Mike Murphy and that he . . . may join that growing list of former King coaches."
Reached by phone at West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is attending the NHL Board of Governors meetings, co-owner Bruce McNall of the Kings said that he and General Manager Rogie Vachon have discussed several options, including replacing Murphy as coach.
"It's easy to blame the coach because he's one guy," McNall said. "And it's easier to get rid of the coach than 25 players, even if (losing) is the fault of the 25 players.
"Obviously, if we keep losing, we're going to have to make changes. We've discussed it, but we're going to take our time because I don't think it's always fair to blame the coach.
"I think right now our problems involve the players more than the coach."
Asked if any players had complained to him about Murphy, McNall said: "Quite the opposite, actually. All the players I've talked to seem to like him. They say he's a players' coach."
Meanwhile, the easygoing Murphy seems unaffected.
"That comes with the territory," he said of speculation concerning his status. "I can't dwell on that. I just do the best I can every night."
Most nights, that includes trying, usually in vain, to convince the Kings of the importance of clearing the slot in front of their goaltenders.
"To beat a team like Montreal, which has size and goes to the net and tries to wear you down, you have to be ready to take the man away from the puck," he said after Saturday night's loss.
When they don't, the Kings leave their goaltenders defenseless.
"If we're going to give up six goals a game," Jim Fox said, "we're not going to win a lot of games."
Goalie Bob Janecyk, in two games since his recall from the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn., has a higher goals-against average (5.37) than the players he came to replace, Rollie Melanson (4.71) and rookie Glenn Healy (4.97).
In the third period, after the Kings had pulled to within 5-4 on a short-handed goal by Bernie Nicholls, Guy Carbonneau scored a short-handed goal for the Canadiens, beating Janecyk to the short side with 3:53 left.
"You've got to have a save in that situation," Murphy said.
Murphy also was unhappy with the way the Canadiens got the puck. Nicholls made a soft pass off the boards in front of the Montreal bench that was intercepted by Bob Gainey, who fed Carbonneau in the left circle.
For that, though, Murphy blamed himself. In the absence of Tim Tookey, who underwent knee surgery Friday in Los Angeles and will be out at least three months, Murphy used Nicholls on a double shift, skating him with two lines.
"I'd used Bernie an awful lot that period and he was a little leg weary," Murphy said. "It's my fault, probably, for having him out there. We probably should have made a change."
Nicholls, who scored twice and has three short-handed goals in seven games, declined to be interviewed, waving off a reporter who approached him.
The Kings, who had scored on both of their power-play opportunities to that point, failed to convert during two manpower advantages in the last 3:53. . . . The Kings fell behind, 3-1, in the first period, but tied it on pair of goals by Jim Fox in the first 8:18 of the second period. Montreal went ahead, 4-3, on a shot from the top of the slot by Larry Robinson that deflected off a King defender. A 30-foot shot by Chris Chelios made it 5-3 with 18:04 left. Mats Naslund bumped goalie Bob Janecyk on the play, knocking the Kings' goaltender off balance. . . . Has Janecyk given the Kings what they expected? After a long pause, Coach Mike Murphy said: "That's a hard question to answer. He's worked his hardest, yes . . . I don't blame him for the loss. I think you've got to take away those prime scoring shots and scoring areas. If you do that, you're going to give the goalie an advantage because (the opposition) is going to take angle shots instead of straight-on shots."