Twenty years ago Wednesday, the Kings christened the newly built Forum by playing the Philadelphia Flyers.
At the time, the Kings were tied with the Flyers for first place in the Western Division. What happened to the two expansion teams after that is a study in contrasts.
The Flyers won the game, a portent of the future of that franchise. The Kings lost the game and are today in last place in the National Hockey League.
With this history in mind, the Kings’ 6-4 win over Winnipeg at the Forum Wednesday night before a crowd of 9,919 may not erase 20 years of disapointment, but it was a nice way to start a third decade.
Luc Robitaille had a hat trick, and Bob Bourne scored two goals on a night when the Kings shed some old habits.
The Kings’ prodigious scoring chased one Jet goaltender out of the nets and terrorized another. These are the Kings other teams speak of when they say the Kings have as much talent as any team in the league.
Perhaps. But the Kings also have a talent for inconsistency. And for lazy forwards. And for breaking down late in games.
It didn’t happen Wednesday night, although Winnipeg struck with two power-play goals--little more than a minute apart--in the third period.
The Jets (16-16-3), who beat the Kings, 5-2, last Monday night, must settle for a 1-1 split with the Kings in this series. The teams will meet two more times this season.
Robitaille, who did not score in Monday’s game against Winnipeg, said, “I think I played the same way as the last game. But the puck was there when I was there. That was the only difference. It was easy.”
There were 132 penalty minutes in the game and it was certainly one of the most physical games the Kings have played this season.
King assistant coach Bryan Maxwell said he wanted teams to leave the Forum with cuts and bruises.
Said King center Bernie Nicholls: “It’s better to give than to receive. If they are, you want to be as physical as they are. That’s what we want to do, take the body and have everybody doing it. That’s what we did tonight.”
The Jets scored on their first power play. With 19 seconds left in the man advantage, Paul MacLean drew attention in front of the net. He whirled and passed the puck to Andrew McBain on the left side. McBain’s hard shot beat Kings’ goalie Bob Janecyk high.
The Kings tied it on a picturesque shot by defenseman Ken Hammond.
On the play, Bernie Nicholls’ shot bounced out to Jim Fox, who backhanded a pass to Hammond, who was called up Dec. 21. He got his first goal of the season with a soft shot that he lofted high into the net.
Suddenly, a game that had been characterized by ragged play from the Kings, had evolved into a fast-paced shootout.
That suits Robitaille fine. He scored the next two goals to give the Kings a 3-1 lead at the end of the first period.
On the first, Robitaille capitalized on a fine passing play. Paul Guay faked a shot and dropped the puck to Mike Allison. Allison slid the puck to Robitaille who executed a deft touch shot for the goal.
Less than five minutes later, Robitaille took the puck in the left corner, faked a pass inside, and wrapped the puck around the net from the right side.
The Jets scored an easy goal early in the second period, as Janecyk had sprawled to make a save, but remained on the ice as the rebound was tapped in by Gilles Hamel. That goal made it 3-2, Kings, and the Jets looked as if they could come all the way back.
But the Kings remained disciplined and hard-working. Robitaille got his hat trick at 4:48 in the second. Allison skated in front of the net, lost the puck, and Robitaille stepped up and fired a shot that surprised Winnipeg goaltender Daniel Berthiaume.
Berthiaume may not have been as surprised when, seconds later, he was replaced in goal by Edlon Reddick.
Reddick had little luck against the hot-shooting Kings. They scored two more quick goals--giving them 6 goals on 14 shots at that point.
Paul Fenton and Bob Bourne scored in the second period for the Kings, which gave them a commanding 6-2 lead going into the third period.
There are no Kings still with the team who played in that first game at the Forum. Winnipeg assistant coach Bill Sutherland played for the Flyers that night, however. . . . As part of the anniversary ceremonies, the Kings introduced former players. Conspicuous by his absence was former team captain Mike Murphy, recently unemployed. . . . Luc Robitaille’s hat trick was his second of his career. His first was Dec. 10, 1986, at the Islanders. . . . The Kings were 0-4 on the power play; the Jets were 3-7.