EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Snow was falling Monday morning outside Brendan Bryne Arena. Cups, some of them filled, were falling Monday night inside the arena, and the Kings were their likely targets during a second-period brawl.
But, for a change, it seemed the only thing not falling was the Kings' stock.
As upside down as it seems, the Kings are strictly flying high these days, with a 6-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils before a crowd of 8,386. It gave them their first three-game winning streak of the season and four victories in their last five games.
Next stop: Maybe fourth place in the five-team Smythe Division.
The victory, coupled with Vancouver's 7-7 tie at Toronto, put Los Angeles in a last-place tie with the Canucks. It may not be much, but it's a start for a team that has been in the cellar since Nov. 27.
"Things are shaping up," Coach Robbie Ftorek said. "I thought tonight we played real well. I don't know if New Jersey played with a lot of intensity, but we came out and capitalized on some opportunities and got two points."
They did it by getting another good game in goal, this time by Rollie Melanson, and the very compatible combination of tight forechecking and solid defense.
Two goals, by Bryan Erickson in the first period and Paul Fenton in the second, resulted directly from good defensive plays in the offensive end, the kind of play Ftorek has stressed in his 13 games as coach.
"This is the best we've played all year," said Melanson, who has a 13-3-1 career record against the Devils. "We've been rotating three goaltenders, and we have all been getting the same kinds of shots. That makes it a lot more fun to play in goal. You're not always staring down the barrel of a gun."
The Kings pulled the trigger on Devil goalie Bob Sauve and his third-period replacement, Alain Chevrier, 37 times, scoring twice in the first period and four times in the second.
It started 4:57 into the game, with Erickson stealing the puck from a New Jersey player at the red line, skating in and firing it past the left shoulder of Sauve from about 40 feet out. Bob Carpenter made it 2-0 with 6:11 to play in the opening period when he scored off his own rebound.
The Kings went up, 3-0, on Bernie Nicholls' short-handed goal 1:15 into the second period, when New Jersey defenseman Jack O'Callahan was unable to clear the puck 10 feet in front of Sauve.
The Devils got on the board with David Maley's power-play score just three seconds after Fenton went off for holding at 3:26.
Then came the Monday night fights, the only thing at that point that could slow down the Kings.
Brendan Shanahan of the Devils and the Kings' Dean Kennedy each got five minutes for fighting. Less than two minutes later, with 7:52 left, Jimmy Carson took a great left-to-right, 15-foot pass on the fly from Luc Robitaille and pushed the Kings' lead to 4-1.
Six players were involved in what turned out to be the main event with 4:47 to play--rookie Ken Baumgartner of the Kings and Craig Wolanin of the Devils got game misconducts and two others earned 10-minute majors.
The Kings responded with another score, this time by Mike Allison.
When Fenton scored with 3:22 left in the second period, after Nicholls had stolen the puck in New Jersey territory from Mark Johnson, the Kings' lead increased to 6-1.
Phil Sykes (groin strain) and Dave Taylor (groin strain) were sidelined at the start of the trip, but they may rejoin the Kings later in the week. Sykes had missed 27 straight games before playing Dec. 22 at Edmonton and aggravating the injury. He hasn't played since. Taylor has been out 6 games. Without him, linemate Jimmy Carson has two goals and one assist. The third member of that line, Luc Robitaille, is one of the hottest Kings. Robitaille's goal Saturday against Montreal at the Forum gave him four scores in as many shots, beginning with his hat trick against Winnipeg last Wednesday. Overall, he has 15 points in his last 11 games and goals in 7 of his last 12. . . . Bob Bourne and his wife, Janice, visited the White House Monday and met President Reagan as part of being named one of the eight Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Bourne called Robbie Ftorek at about 2 p.m., to say he might be able to make it to New Jersey for the game, but the King coach told him not to worry too much. "He could have been back in time," Ftorek said. "But this kind of opportunity doesn't come around every day. I told him, 'Hey, stay there.' " . . . Defenseman Ken Baumgartner was recalled from the New Haven, Conn., farm team. His impact was immediate. He leveled New Jersey's Kirk Muller with a clothesline check along the boards at the red line and moments later was charged with two minutes for elbowing, five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct, all as part of the second-period brawl.