Kings Hold Off Islanders for Two Periods Before Losing, 4-1

Times Staff Writer

The Kings have promised an emphasis on defense this season, and for the first two periods of their opener Thursday night, they delivered.

Unfortunately for the Kings, they never found their offense, and their defense broke down in the last 16 minutes, resulting in a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders at the Forum.

A crowd of 10,748 saw the Islanders score three times in the third period while limiting the Kings to only one shot on goal.

The Kings, who got only a second-period goal from defenseman Mark Hardy, haven’t won an opener since 1980.

They’re 0-4-3 since.

“I think up until the end of the second period, we were probably ahead of them in some ways,” Coach Mike Murphy of the Kings said. “In the third, we didn’t seem to have much left.”


Highly competitive to that point, the game turned in the Islanders’ favor after rookie Randy Wood intercepted a clearing pass from the Kings’ Luc Robitaille and scored with 5:51 left.

“I was trying to stay in the passing lane,” Wood said. “A lot of breaks can happen that way. I was waiting for them to make that little bit of mental lapse.”

The second goal of Wood’s career, scored on a slap shot from the top of the slot, sailed through goaltender Rollie Melanson’s legs and gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead.

“I’m kind of inclined to believe that whoever got the second goal (actually the third) was going to have the edge,” Murphy said. “They had a definite lift there.”

Said Melanson: “One goal shouldn’t change the game around, but they really played it smart and didn’t let us get back into it.”

On the game-winning goal, Melanson said he never knew what hit him.

“When we turned it over,” he said, “Dino (Dean Kennedy) went out to stand up on the guy (Wood), and he kept his feet together. I never even saw the puck until it was right on top of me.”

He found the Islanders on top of him twice more before the game ended.

With 6:19 left, the Islanders’ new captain, Brent Sutter, skating diagonally from right to left through the slot, deflected a shot by Bryan Trottier past Melanson to make it 3-1.

At that point, the Kings hadn’t taken a shot on goal in the period.

“I wish I had a comment for that,” Murphy said. “We just lost steam when that second (Islander) goal went in.”

Trottier, credited with an “outstanding” game by Islander Coach Terry Simpson, added a goal of his own with 4:32 left, batting a rebound out of the air and over the prone Melanson to give the Islanders a 4-1 lead.

The way the Islanders were playing, the Kings had no chance to make up the deficit.

“They were putting it to us,” Melanson said. “They fore-checked us hard in the third period and took the game away from us.”

It was the kind of performance Murphy would like from his team. Murphy had stressed defense throughout training camp, saying that the Kings would have to change their priorities and become a more physical, hard-checking team.

Apparently, they took him to heart.

Although the Kings had four defensemen sidelined because of injuries, they jammed the Islanders early, limiting New York to only two shots on goal in a scoreless first period.

Meanwhile, the Kings had several scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes, but all of them were turned back by Islander goalie Billy Smith.

Smith, 36, the oldest goaltender in the league, stopped a point-blank shot by Bernie Nicholls, a slap shot from the slot by Bobby Carpenter and a driving shot by Craig Duncanson, who failed to convert on a 2-on-1 breakaway.

The perseverance of Pat LaFontaine enabled the Islanders to break the tie at 1:14 of the second period.

LaFontaine had a pair of shots from the slot kicked back by Melanson, who deflected the second shot to the right of the net. LaFontaine retrieved the puck and carried it behind the net, attempting to jam it into the lower left corner as he reached the other side.

Melanson made another brilliant save, diving to stop the shot, but knocked the puck out toward LaFontaine, who was now facing the opening of the net from the left side.

LaFontaine lifted the puck over Melanson for the goal.

It took the Kings only 29 seconds to get even.

Hardy scored a short-handed goal at 1:43, taking a pass in the slot from Carpenter, who had retrieved the puck behind the net, and firing a shot past Smith, who was caught out of position.

That was it for the Kings’ offense.

King Notes

Rookie Wayne McBean, who was cut below his right eye in the Kings’ 6-4 exhibition victory over the U.S. Olympic team last Saturday night, did not play. Coach Mike Murphy said there was still some inflammation behind McBean’s eye. It will be re-examined today, determining McBean’s status for Saturday night’s game at the Forum against the St. Louis Blues. . . . Also held out for the Kings because of injuries: rookie Petr Prajsler, who has a pulled groin; Grant Ledyard, who hasn’t practiced since he sprained an ankle three weeks ago, and Larry Playfair, who is recovering from off-season knee surgery and isn’t due back until December. . . . Brian Wilks, cut Wednesday by the Kings, reported to New Haven (Conn.) of the American Hockey League. The Kings had given him the option of joining the Canadian Olympic team. . . . Jim Fox was named player representative for the Kings in a vote of the players. He replaced captain Dave Taylor, who had held the post for more than four years. . . . Tim Tookey, acquired in Monday’s waiver draft and expected to be assigned to New Haven, has joined the Kings.