The sporting world soon will segue into an ice mode and turn its attention to Calgary, but it obviously has to do with the Winter Olympics and not the continued success of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames.
Sent out on the road as nomads for a month because of the Olympic Games, the Flames no doubt would appreciate a flicker of attention these days. They are, after all, leading the Edmonton Oilers in Smythe Division as the league heads for the All-Star break.
Sunday night, the Flames ended a three-game losing streak by once again making themselves at home at the Forum. They beat the Kings, 5-2, before a crowd of 10,800 that came to see if the Kings could extend their home winning streak to a season-high five games.
Instead, Calgary won its third straight game against the Kings in Los Angeles this season, which is as cozy a winter home as they can find these days. By the time Calgary is back in the Saddledome again in March, they will have played 11 straight road games.
So, the Flames will return to Calgary today--but not to their home ice, the Saddledome--with a five-point lead over Edmonton.
As for the Kings, well, they didn't appear to be victims of a letdown after Saturday night's upset against Edmonton, nor did they lack sustained effort.
Rather, it was a combination of the Flames finally breaking out of an offensive funk and the Kings staging several costly giveaways and mental lapses that did them in.
"You may have saw it differently, but we just didn't play well, the way we wanted to play," King Coach Robbie Ftorek said. "When you're not skating the way you want to, it's hard to adjust to anything."
Flame Coach Terry Crisp, who found shelter at the Forum Saturday by taking in the King-Oiler game, decided to put pressure on the tired Kings early.
Said Calgary rookie Joe Nieuwendyk, who scored his 40th goal Sunday: "We figured they'd be a little tired tonight, so if we jumped on them early and played good defense we'd come out with a win."
Said Ftorek: "Calgary played a different game than usual against us. They had three guys across the blue line, probably because they've been giving up a lot of goals and we've been scoring a lot of goals. We just couldn't get (the puck) out of our own zone."
Calgary, the NHL's top offensive team which had not lost four straight games this season, received two goals from 5-foot 9-inch wing Joe Mullen as well as Nieuwendyk's goal and two assists from John Tonelli. Combine that with solid goaltending from Mike Vernon, who had been in the nets for all three recent Flame losses, and the Kings needed a superior effort to persevere.
Which they didn't get.
At times, the Kings looked solid. At other times, they looked typically inept. The Kings outshot the Flames, 25-22, but they were one of eight on power plays. Jimmy Carson scored both King goals, one on a two-man advantage in the second period.
The Kings had their chances. Bernie Nicholls had a breakaway stopped by Vernon near the end of the first period, not long after the Kings sliced Calgary's lead to 2-1. Carson was threatening to record his third hat trick in four games in the second and third periods.
But, as often is the case with the Kings, the bad far outnumbered the good and mediocre.
"I thought both teams were lackluster," Ftorek said. "They had only four guys flying out there. That's it. We definitely did not skate well. You'll like to be able to win on off nights, but I don't want to rationalize it that way."
But, after the second period, the closest the Kings could get was 3-2. And the Kings now have an 0-27-2 record when they trail entering the third period.
An ill-timed defensive giveaway, sluggish skating and lack of fantastic saves from goaltender Rollie Melanson highlighted a third period that sent fans to the exits.
For a short time in the third period, the Kings made a pretty good stab at catching the Flames. The Kings had five good scoring chances on a power play early in the third period, but Vernon would not yield. Luc Robitaille hit the post with a shot, and Vernon had to reach behind him to save a Mark Hardy shot from the point.
Shortly after that foiled power play, however, the Kings unraveled.
It all started when King defenseman Ken Hammond gave up the puck in his own end to Brett Hull, who proceeded to put a move on Melanson that would have made his famous father, Bobby Hull, proud.
Hull skated in on Melanson, wound up to shoot a slap shot and then faked to his backhand side. Melanson had already commited to the fake, and Hull easily slid the backhand in for a 4-2 Calgary lead.
"It was 3-to-2 and we were really knocking on their door," said Hammond. "But (the puck) hopped over my stick and I lost it. I'll take full responsibility for it. It was my fault."