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Melanson Hangs Tough, and Kings Solve Vancouver Puzzle, 3-2

December 27, 1987|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

Faced with the prospect of falling still deeper into the Smythe Division cellar, the Kings put together one of their most determined efforts of the season Saturday night at the Forum.

They beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2, before a crowd of 11,599.

It wasn't the completion of a desired two-game sweep--the Canucks made that an impossibility with a 5-1 victory last Wednesday night at Vancouver--but it sure beat the alternative.

A loss would have pushed the Kings seven points behind the fourth-place Canucks in the division standings.

Instead, they trail the Canucks, who have played two fewer games, by only three points after ending a four-game losing streak against the Canucks.

Goaltender Rollie Melanson, making only his second start in three weeks, stopped 34 shots in winning for only the second time in six weeks.

"The guys came out and really wanted to win this game," said Melanson, who hadn't won in five weeks before beating Calgary last Sunday night. "It was a big improvement over the other night in Vancouver.

"Tonight, we initiated a lot of things. We took the body a lot more."

Of course, after being beaten so handily at Vancouver, this was an even bigger game for the Kings, who hadn't won a one-goal decision since beating the Quebec Nordiques, 8-7, Nov. 14.

They had since lost six straight one-goal decisions.

"We don't even want to be three points down," Melanson said, "but it seems like we keep putting pressure on ourselves by losing."

The Kings, who held the Canucks scoreless in six power-play opportunities at Vancouver, killed all five penalties this time.

"Our problem has been the forwards not coming down to help out, but we did that very well tonight," Melanson said. "We did a good job of clearing out the center of the ice."

The Kings scored first, getting a power-play goal from Paul Fenton with 10:58 left in the first period.

Vancouver had killed 36 of its previous 38 penalties, including all six last Wednesday night against the Kings and another earlier in the game, but with Stan Smyl in the penalty box for holding King defenseman Jay Wells, Fenton scored on a rebound.

Fenton started the play with a shot from the left point that goaltender Kirk McLean kicked out to Jim Fox at the top of the slot. Fox, too, was stopped by McLean, but the puck bounced off the goaltender to Fenton, who scored from the left side, beating McLean to the stick side.

Vancouver's Tony Tanti, playing with a hairline fracture in his left foot, tied it with 6:15 left in the period, scoring on a shot from the top of the slot.

Melanson said he didn't see the shot, which made its way through a crowd of players and sailed over Melanson's left shoulder.

"How he got it through there was amazing," Melanson said.

The Canucks limited the Kings to only one shot on goal the rest of the period, but Mike Allison used it to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.

Allison, pinned against the left side, sent a centering pass that ricocheted off the right boards into the right circle, where Canuck defenseman Larry Melnyk overskated the puck and Luc Robitaille caught up with it.

The King winger spun and sent a crisp pass to Allison, who scored on a chip shot from in front of the net, beating McLean to the stick side with 2:43 left in the period.

In a scoreless second period, Melanson was especially sharp as the Kings killed three straight penalties and the first 1 minute 39 seconds of a fourth in the last 11:28.

Melanson stopped 12 shots during the period, including one by Barry Pederson off a rebound from right in front of the net in the last 10 seconds.

Jimmy Carson gave the Kings a 3-1 lead in the third period, scoring his 22nd goal with 7:02 left.

Just 7 seconds after Tanti had gone off for tripping Paul Guay, Carson knocked in the rebound of a shot from the right point by Bob Bourne.

Greg Adams stuffed the puck into the lower right corner of the net with 20 seconds left, cutting the Vancouver deficit to 3-2.

King Notes

Captain Dave Taylor sat out for a second straight game because of a groin strain. . . . Bob Bourne returned to the lineup after missing four games with a sprained knee. . . . The availability of Phil Sykes, who has missed 29 of the Kings' last 30 games with a severely pulled groin, will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. Sykes aggravated the injury last Tuesday night at Edmonton. . . . Despite their problems on the ice, the Kings have drawn an average of 949 more fans a night than they did last season through the same amount of home dates. . . . Outdoor note: Trainer Pete Demers of the Kings will receive a silver-plated bowl from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Division of Marine Fisheries for his catch last summer of a 62-pound striped bass. . . . The Kings play the Winnipeg Jets in a two-game set Monday and Wednesday nights at the Forum. The starting time of Wednesday night's game was pushed back to 8:05 to accommodate ESPN. . . . The Kings, who had scored only 4 goals in their previous 45 power-play opportunities, scored twice in four manpower advantages.

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