King Penalty-Killers and Melanson Smother Flames in a 4-1 Victory

Times Staff Writer

The Kings held a meeting Saturday morning. It wasn't set up after an exchange of interoffice memos or phone messages from secretaries.

It was an act of desperation.

Items on the agenda: What to do about the penalty-killing unit that had allowed three power-play goals in three of the last five games. Minutes: "We've got to go back to aggressive play. Now."

Vote: All in favor. Meeting adjourned.

After the Kings agreed on policy following a morning practice, they implemented it Saturday night in a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames before a crowd of 11,860 at the Forum.

At issue was the deterioration of the team's ability to prevent power-play goals. The Kings' penalty-killing effectiveness is rated 18th in the 21-team National Hockey League after being as high as fourth earlier in the season.

"We talked about trying to force the play, the way we had done before," King captain Dave Taylor said. "We had to go out to the puck and challenge the man. We just got away from it lately."

During a five-minute Calgary power play, the Kings showed what they had talked about. They displayed aggressiveness that had been absent for several weeks.

Not only did they continually clear the puck out of their own zone, but also, two minutes into the power play, Taylor stole the puck and fed Bryan Erickson for a short-handed goal.

That tied the game at 1-1 and gave the Kings momentum.

"I think the whole turning point was that five-minute penalty," goaltender Roland Melanson said.

Melanson, like the penalty-killers, was revitalized by Saturday night's game. Languishing as the third man in the Kings' awkward three-goaltender rotation, Melanson had started only four games and lost them all. He had last played Oct. 27.

Against the Flames, he played like a man fighting for a job. He made two spectacular saves, both in the first period, to anchor the King effort.

"I think the big difference in the game tonight was Rollie Melanson," the Kings' Phil Sykes said. "You talk about a guy staying with the puck. He gave our defense, and all of us, great confidence."

Changes were everywhere. The Kings, who are 6-11-1, snapped a seven-game winning streak by Calgary (10-8) and also gained some measure of redemption after a listless effort in Thursday night's 6-5 loss to Winnipeg. The juxtaposition of the games revealed a King pattern: Poor efforts followed by near-flawless play.

"I'm real pleased with our effort tonight," Coach Pat Quinn said. "We've had two stinkers, the one last Thursday and the one with Boston (last month), but I've been pleased with all the other games.

"They have shown they are capable of playing a quality game. I would like to have the consistency without the peaks and valleys."

Saturday night, however, the up-and-down Kings showed more consistency within a game.

The first period was more a tango than a hustle. King forwards danced around Flame defenders, and Flame forwards did a quick waltz around King defenders.

Neither team put much prolonged pressure on the goaltenders, due in part to aggressive forechecking. Each team got seven shots on goal in the period.

Melanson's saves (he had 29 for the game) appeared to settle the Kings, who had shown signs of jitters.

King defensemen were sharp, too. They went after Joel Otto early and often. They remember Otto as the Flame who scored a hat trick the last time the teams met. Being 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, Otto is virtually an immovable object in front of the net.

Or he had been. King defensemen shoved Otto and other Calgary forwards out of position all night. Dean Kennedy play an excellent game in that regard.

The Flames scored first, in the second period, on a five-foot backhander by Colin Patterson. Then they got the five-minute power play as the Kings' Dave (Tiger) Williams drew the major penalty.

Surprise: The Kings came out with one of their best penalty-killing efforts of the season. With Sykes and Bob Bourne on the same shift, they had little trouble clearing Otto from in front of the net, and they broke the back of the Flame power play with Erickson's shorthanded goal.

Within seconds after they killed the penalty, the Kings scored again. Williams connected on a rebound of a Bernie Nicholls shot at 17:41 for a 2-1 lead going into the third period.

"The goal right after the power play was a big goal," Taylor said. "We came into the penalty being down by one goal, and after it, we are leading."

Luc Robitaille and Tayor both had goals in the third period to finish the King scoring.

King Notes Like Roland Melanson, Flame goaltender Rejean Lemelin had not started in seven games. He has played in four games and is 0-4. . . . The Flames had five players out with injuries and lost a sixth when the Kings' Dave (Tiger) Williams caught left wing John Tonelli in the left eye in the second period. Tonelli suffered a bruise and did not return.

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