When they lost their first three games this season, the Kings looked as if they might be out of the National Hockey League race before the World Series was over.
But the Kings ended their winless ways with their first victory of the season, 4-3, over the New York Rangers Wednesday night before 7,584 fans at the Forum. The Rangers have lost three straight games under rookie Coach Ted Sator since winning the season opener against the Washington Capitals last week.
The Kings (1-3) went 0-6-3 before winning their first game last season.
"We're ahead of last season, aren't we," said center Marcel Dionne, who scored one goal and had one assist against the Rangers. "We're still not really playing up to where we're capable of playing, but it was nice to get a win."
Said King Coach Pat Quinn: "It wasn't pretty, but I think we'll gain some confidence from this. We had a good, solid effort all night long."
Goalie Bob Janecyk made 43 saves to lead the Kings, who got a big break with 3:54 left in the third period when referee Bob Myers disallowed an apparent goal by Ranger left wing Mark Osborne.
Osborne tried to jam the puck through Janecyk's legs and then began celebrating, thinking he had scored. But the goal judge never turned on the light, and Myers quickly ruled that the puck had not crossed the line.
It appeared from TV replays that King defenseman Dean Kennedy may have fished the puck out of the net.
"It was over the line," Osborne said. "I turned to the goal judge, and he didn't even react. The referee wasn't even in position to see it. By the time he came over, the goalie had moved it out.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it went over. I wouldn't have slammed my stick against the glass at the goal judge if it didn't go in."
Said Janecyk: "He tried to stuff it, and I had it between my feet. It wasn't a goal. The goal judge didn't turn on the light, and the referee didn't call it a goal."
Said Kennedy: "It wasn't fully in the net. To be a goal, the puck has to be all the way over the line, and only a half-inch of the puck was over the line."
Asked where the puck had stopped, Quinn put his hands to his throat.
The Kings, who had blown early leads in two of their first three games, managed to hang onto a lead for a change. And they even played a good second period, outscoring the Rangers, 1-0. The Kings had been outscored, 10-4, in the second periods of their first three games.
The King power play, which had produced only one goal in 18 chances in the first three games, also looked better. The Kings were 1 for 4 on the power play against the Rangers.
And the King defense, which had given up 20 goals in the first three games, also seemed to be improving.
The Kings led, 3-2, after the second-period goals by Dionne, left wing Brian MacLellan and right wing Dave Taylor. MacLellan , who scored on a five-on-three power play in the second period, and Taylor also had one assist apiece.
"It's just a great feeling to win," said Taylor, who recently was elected the team captain. "I think there's a lot of relief in this dressing room. It wasn't a great game, but we did a lot of things right."
With the score tied, 2-2, after the first period, Taylor put the Kings ahead on a goal off a pass from Dionne. Taylor backhanded a shot off the right skate of Ranger goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.
"We played a tough and aggressive game," Vanbiesbrouck said. "But Bob (Janecyk) was the standout tonight. Without him it would have been a totally different result."
The Kings took a 4-2 lead early in the third period when defenseman Jay Wells scored his first goal of the season at 5:23 of the third period on a shot from the top of the slot. It came during a delayed penalty on Ranger right wing Bob Brooke, who had dumped King right wing Paul Guay in the corner.
However, the Rangers scored a little more than a minute after Wells' goal when right wing Stephen Patrick beat Janecyk on a rebound shot at 6:32. Janecyk had made a kick save with his right leg on a sharp angle shot by defenseman Reijo Ruotsalainen. But Patrick put in the rebound for his first goal of the season.
Defenseman Grant Ledyard and right wing Tomas Sandstrom also scored for the Rangers.
"We were firing on seven cylinders and not eight tonight," Sator said. "We've got to get consistency. "We had lots of chances, but . . . lots of chances don't win hockey games."
The Kings play the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Vancouver before returning home to play host to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers Sunday night at the Forum. . . . Defenseman Mark Hardy of the Kings underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his left wrist Tuesday. His wrist will be placed in a cast for at least four weeks, followed by another two weeks of therapy. . . . Center Glen Currie of the Kings is expected to miss six weeks with a herniated disk. Currie, who was acquired in an off-season trade with the Washington Capitals, has yet to play a game this season.