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Kings Are Just Right for What Ails Maple Leafs : Toronto Ends Its 15-Game Winless Streak With a Solid 5-2 Victory Over L.A.

January 28, 1988|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

TORONTO — In the aftermath of an 11-3 loss to the Calgary Flames that he likened to a "carnage," Coach John Brophy said Monday night that the Toronto Maple Leafs, winless in 15 games, had 'bottomed out."

"This is not quicksand we're in," he said. "We've hit solid rock."

The rock Wednesday night took the form of the Kings, and the Maple Leafs used them as a springboard to end a club-record period of futility.

Winning for the first time in five weeks, the Maple Leafs got two goals from rookie Mike Blaisdell in beating the Kings, 5-2, before a crowd of 15,664 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Maple Leafs, recent subjects of both concern and criticism in Toronto, were 0-11-4 since winning Dec. 23 at St. Louis and hadn't won at Maple Leafs Gardens since Dec. 15.

They had lost six straight games.

The wolves were out:

--A story in Wednesday's editions of the Toronto Sun detailed Gerry McNamara's record since taking over as general manager and was headlined: "McNamara Rates With Worst Ever."

--A couple of Toronto deejays recorded a song called "Slump John B," sung to the tune of "Sloop John B," in which they urged Brophy to "get out of the slump, John B, or give us tickets for free."

--At least one fan Wednesday night wore a paper sack over his head and a T-shirt on which he'd written, "We're No. 21," indicating that the Maple Leafs have the worst record in the National Hockey League.

Meanwhile, before Tuesday's practice, Brophy had his players watch part of the videotape from Monday night's loss. "It didn't seem any better on film than it was in real life," defenseman Rick Lanz told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

But then the Leafs came out and jumped on the Kings, who were playing their fifth game in seven nights.

Toronto, which hadn't scored first in its previous 10 games, was ahead, 1-0, after only 1 minute 40 seconds.

Blaisdell, recalled Monday from the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate at Newmarket, Canada, skated through the slot untouched, took a pass from Russ Courtnall and scored easily, setting the tone of the game.

Said Brophy: "I thought we were going to come out with a lot of go considering the way they've been carrying on around this city and the way we've been treated."

But did he also expect the Kings to lie down?

The Maple Leafs built a 2-1 lead through the first two periods, outshooting the Kings, 31-13, in the first 40 minutes.

"Awful," King General Manager Rogie Vachon, watching the game from the press box, said of the Kings' effort in the first two periods.

It could have been worse, but goaltender Glenn Healy stopped several shots at the end of Toronto breakaways. Also, the Maple Leafs had two shots carom off posts in the second period.

"Tonight was one of our worst defensive games in a while," said Healy, all too aware that the Kings are the worst defensive team in the NHL.

Blaisdell scored again at 1:20 of the third period to make it 3-1.

The Kings, springing to life at that point much as they had in the third period of a 5-3 loss Tuesday night to the Quebec Nordiques, cut the deficit to 3-2 on a power-play goal by Ken Hammond before giving up a pair of empty-net goals in the last 56 seconds.

The Kings had 16 shots on goal in the final period, but rookie goaltender Jeff Reese, making only his fourth NHL start, stopped 15 to pick up his first career victory.

Said Healy: "We can't wait until the third period and say, 'Oh, gee, 10 minutes left, now it's time to turn it on.' "

The Kings' last extended trip of the season couldn't have ended much worse.

After winning two of three games, including an overtime decision over Calgary, they lost to a pair of last-place teams, putting forth what seemed to be minimal efforts against both the Nordiques and the Maple Leafs.

"You don't want to give up as many shots as we've been giving up in the last few games," Coach Robbie Ftorek said. "Our people are not picking up the right people coming back, and that allows them to get extra shots."

It's been a problem for the Kings all season, but that, of course, was of no concern to the Maple Leafs.

"We knew it couldn't go on forever," Brophy said of the winless streak, "although there were times in there that we thought it might."

King Notes

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