Kings of the Road Return Home Tied for Second After 4-2 Win

Times Staff Writer

No, that is not a typo in today's National Hockey League standings, the Kings really are in a second place tie in the Smythe Division with the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.

Asked how it feels to be tied for second Kings Coach Pat Quinn said: "I love it."

The Kings completed their most successful trip of the season with a 4-2 upset win over the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night before 14,915 fans at the Buffalo Auditorium.

The Kings took six out of eight points on a four-game East Coast trip, winning three-straight games after opening the trip last Tuesday with a loss to the Quebec Nordiques.

Why, you might have thought the Kings had won a Stanley Cup from the celebration in their locker room.

"All the hard work is starting to pay off for us now," said Kings center Doug Smith, who scored a goal. "If we play like this the rest of the season, there's no question that we'll end up in second place."

There's virtually no way that the Kings can catch Edmonton for first place, but finishing second would be a big accomplishment for a team which has finished in fifth place and out of the playoffs for the last three seasons.

"We're doing things in the last three games that we should have been doing a long time ago. We're forechecking and taking the man and playing good defense. Before it was all offense," Kings' center Marcel Dionne said. "Now we've got to make a move on Calgary."

The Kings (28-23-11), Calgary (30-25-7) and Winnipeg (30-26-7) each have 67 points. The Kings don't play Winnipeg any more this season, but they have four games remaining against Calgary--one next weekend and a three-game series at the end March.

"We have been slugging it out with Winnipeg and Calgary for the last couple of months and we weren't making any headway. It's no fun chasing them," Kings' left wing Steve Shutt said. "Tonight we realized that we had a chance to get even with them and it was like a light went on in our heads."

The Kings pushed the slumping Sabres around early in the game, taking a 3-0 lead after the second period on goals by Shutt, Jim Fox and Smith.

"No one seemed to believe in us, including ourselves," Fox said. 'But now we're starting to believe. We have had a lot of ups and downs, but now we're on an up."

Buffalo scored 1:57 into the third period on a goal by Dave Andreychuk to cut the score to 3-1.

But the Kings held onto the lead.

Center Bernie Nicholls gave the Kings a 4-1 lead with 12:19 left in the game when when he scored an unassisted goal on a nifty play when he put the puck under the armpit of Buffalo goalie Tom Barrasso, who was sprawled on the ice.

"We have definitely got a long way to go," Nicholls said of the Kings. "But now we have got a lot of confidence. We've worked hard to be where we're at. We're playing very well and with a lot of discipline."

The Sabres pulled Barrasso for an extra skater late in the game and they scored with 42 seconds left when center Brent Peterson got his 11th goal of the season.

Peterson said the Sabres' problem is that they are trying to be too flashy.

"We are playing too fancy at home," he said. "Against Los Angeles, they did things to us that we normally do to other teams."

Buffalo (28-19-12), which looked like a Stanley Cup contender earlier this season, is in a slump. The Sabres tied a club record by losing their fourth straight home game. They are 1-4 since the All-Star break.

"We played well up to the All-Star break, but it's been a nightmare since then," Buffalo Coach Scotty Bowman said. "I really don't know the reason for it. It's been a combination of things.

"The Kings are playing good hockey. We don't see them that often, but they beat us both times we've played them this year."

The Kings got another strong game from goalie Bob Janecyk, who stopped 27 shots.

"The team has been playing unbelievable behind me. That's been a big reason for our success," Janecyk said. "All I have to do is make the first save and then the puck is cleared out."

Said Quinn: "Bobby has been sound for the last two weeks. It's that type of goaltending that has helped us move into second place."

The Kings led, 1-0, at he end of the first period as Shutt scored his 16th goal of the season 6 minutes 48 seconds into the game on a rebound of a shot by Smith.

Smith made a nice move to get around defenseman Dave Maloney in back of the net and fired a shot Barrasso. Barrasso made a diving save, but Shutt, who was to the right of the net, got the rebound and put the puck over Barrasso.

The Sabres didn't have a shot in the first 10 minutes of the game, but wound up outshooting the Kings, 12-6, in the opening period.

Most of Buffalo's shots came during a two-minute power play after rookie defenseman Garry Galley was penalized for roughing.

Janecyk made several spectacular saves on the Sabres' power play. With 1:59 left, Janecyk made a nice save of a rebound shot by Lindy Ruff.

The Kings dominated the second period, outshooting the Sabres, 14-7, and scoring twice in a three-minute span.

Fox got a power-play goal with 12:46 left in the second period on a bang-bang play on passes from defenseman Brian Engblom and Nicholls.

Smith put in a rebound of by shot by Hakansson with 9:29 left.

Kings' Notes The Kings took a bus to Toronto immediately after the game. They were schedule to fly from Toronto to Los Angeles today. The Kings return home to play host to the Quebec Nordiques on Wednesday at the Forum before hitting the road again next weekend.

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