The Calgary Flames, who have lit up just about everybody in the National Hockey League in the last 5 1/2 weeks, torched the Kings for the third time in that span Saturday night.
Goaltender Mike Vernon made 30 saves in running his unbeaten streak to 13 games, and Hakan Loob, moved from right wing to center in the absence of high-scoring rookie Joe Nieuwendyk, scored two goals in the Flames' 4-1 victory before a crowd of 10,884 at the Forum.
The Flames' fourth straight victory enabled the Smythe Division leaders to increase their lead over the second-place Edmonton Oilers to three points, their largest margin of the season.
Including three victories over the Kings--none by less than a three-goal margin--the Flames are 14-2-2 since squandering a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 overtime loss at Winnipeg Nov. 10.
And since losing to Boston, 6-3, Nov. 17, they are 11-1-2.
Vernon, playing in front of a defense that killed 10 of 11 penalties against the Kings, is 12-0-1 since losing to the Buffalo Sabres Nov. 8.
"I think I'm pretty well on top of my game," Vernon said. "Everybody's contributing, and we're notching up the wins."
For the Kings, who will play the Flames again tonight at Calgary's Olympic Saddledome, the loss was their eighth in nine games.
They are 1-9-1 since beating the Chicago Blackhawks Nov. 25.
"We have to go out and play with more of whatever it was we were lacking tonight," said Coach Robbie Ftorek of the Kings, declining to elaborate.
Asked about the Kings' powerless power-play unit, which has produced only 2 goals in its last 23 opportunities, Ftorek said: "It wasn't through lack of effort. It might have been through not playing well together."
Calgary, which scored on its first two shots in an 8-4 victory over the Kings last month at the Forum, scored on its second and third this time, opening a 2-0 lead in the first 4 minutes 30 seconds.
"Any time you score two quick goals on the road, it seems to take the wind out of the opposition," Vernon said.
The Flames' leading scorer, Mike Bullard, skated around defenseman Tom Laidlaw and fired a 25-foot shot from the left circle that trickled out of the glove of goaltender Glenn Healy and into the net with 15:30 left in the period.
Just 70 seconds later, Lanny McDonald scored on a deflection of a shot from the point by Brian Glynn.
When it was suggested to Calgary Coach Terry Crisp that Healy looked shaky early in the game, Crisp nodded and said: "I think Vernon turned in a stellar performance. He made some great saves early in the game, and that's the difference in a game like this."
Loob gave the Flames a 3-0 lead with 11:33 left in the second period, blowing past defenseman Grant Ledyard and scoring on a 20-foot shot from the right circle.
Calgary, which had killed 25 straight penalties, gave up a power-play goal with 7:47 left in the period.
Jimmy Carson, who hadn't scored a goal in six games, one-timed a pass from Luc Robitaille for his 20th goal.
Vernon, who improved his career record against the Kings to 6-1, had made 19 saves before he was beaten by Carson's shot, which was taken from about 15 feet in front of the net.
The Flames then restored their three-goal advantage on a short-handed goal by Loob, who was on the move as he took the puck after it eluded defenseman Mark Hardy of the Kings.
Loob, skating in uncontested, beat Healy to the glove side with a back-handed shot for his 20th goal. It was Loob's fourth short-handed goal, which tied him with the Kings' Bernie Nicholls for the league lead.
For the Flames, who lead the NHL in power-play efficiency, it was their 12th short-handed goal, which also leads the league.
And, considering that the Kings are 0-17-2 in games in which they've trailed after two periods, Loob's goal all but put the game out of the Kings' reach.