The matter of the phantom hockey team was solved by Coach Pat Quinn of the Kings, less than 10 minutes after the case was closed Tuesday night.
The Kings simply weren't there when they got bombed by the Vancouver Canucks, 11-5, before 8,036 fans at the Pacific Coliseum.
But still the Kings (8-13-2) lost a key game to the Canucks, who are breathing down their necks in the Smythe Division race.
'We had a lot of players who didn't show up to play tonight," Quinn said. "What can I say? We stunk, absolutely brutal. It's hard to even comment on this type of performance. I'm speechless."
Quinn didn't have to say much, the Kings' performance spoke for itself. The Kings were pathetic. The goaltending flopped, the defense allowed it to happen, and the offense didn't want to dirty its hands in the corners.
"Quite honestly, I hadn't anticipated this type of effort," Quinn said. "This was an important hockey game for us tonight. Obviously, the team didn't think so."
The Kings thought they had problems before, rotating three goaltenders. They could have jammed all three of them into the net against Vancouver, and they still would have been blown out.
"I felt bad on the ice, the whole team felt bad on the ice," King rookie Luc Robitaille said. "It seemed like every time they (the Canucks) took a shot, they were scoring."
The game exposed the same problems that King games regularly expose. Penalties are killing the Kings--or is it their penalty-killing? The Kings allowed four power-play goals off a generous nine power-play chances by Vancouver (6-14-2). That many one-man advantages allows the shots Robitaille was talking about.
Rollie Melanson started in goal for the Kings, on the strength of six good performances. He came out in the second period, was replaced by Darren Eliot, then went back in the game in the third period.
Nothing worked. It's possible the Kings considered suiting up current General Manager and former NHL goaltender Rogie Vachon.
The game started well enough. But Vancouver scored five goals in the second period and four in the third to run away with it.
The Kings got off only one shot in the third period.
Vancouver came into the second period leading, 2-1, and they went out of it leading, 7-4. It was that kind of period.
The only consistent production the Kings got was from the combination of Robitaille and Marcel Dionne. Each had two goals and two assists in the game.
Robitaille scored the Kings' first and only goal of the first period, against two goals for Vancouver.
Robitaille scored first in the second period, on a power play at 1:03, to tie it at 2-2. Dionne was in control of the puck but was pulled down in the slot. While on the ice, he managed to push the puck out to Robitaille.
The Canucks then scored four straight goals to ruin any chance of a King comeback in the period.
After goals by Barry Pederson and Patrik Sundstrom, Quinn pulled Melanson and replaced him with Eliot at 6:35.
The change was barely noticeable. The Canucks promptly scored on a power play to give them a 5-2 lead.
It was enough to take the fight out of most hockey players, but not out of Dave (Tiger) Williams.
Williams speared Vancouver's captain, Stan Smyl, and while Smyl lay crumpled on the ice, his teammates went after Williams.
After the fight, which involved every player on the ice, Williams was called for roughing, spearing and given a game misconduct. Dave Lowery of the Canucks was also called for roughing and got a game misconduct.
The aftermath of the battle left the Canucks with a five-minute major power play. For most teams, a certain goal opportunity.
However, nine seconds into the penalty, Steve Tambellini was called for interference. Petri Skriko still scored for Vancouver on the four-on-four.
The Kings mounted a small scoring rush of their own. Steve Duchesne scored at 17:17, and Dionne took a drop pass from Robitaille to narrow the gap to 6-4 at 18:03.
The Kings would have been happy to get out of the period being behind by only two goals. But with 23 seconds left, Rich Sutter beat Eliot to give Vancouver a 7-4 lead at the end of the second period.
King Notes The Kings will play host to the Canucks tonight at 7:30 at the Forum. It means the end of a five-game trip for the Kings and the start of a five-game home stand. . . . The 11 goals allowed ties a King club record for goals against. . . . Dave (Tiger) Williams has had the flu for much of this trip. He had not practiced with the team. . . . Linesman Wayne Forsey suffered a leg injury in the first period and did not return to the game.