There have been no miracles this season for Herb Brooks, coach of the Minnesota North Stars.
The coach of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, hired last spring at some expense--$160,000 a year, a lot of money in this league--to turn the franchise around, has watched the falling Stars plummet to the bottom of the Norris Division.
Winners of only two of their last 16 games and owners of the worst home record in the National Hockey League, the North Stars fell again Monday night, losing to the Kings, 5-4, before a crowd of 10,123 in the Met Center.
The Kings, ending a two-game losing streak, kept the North Stars winless in their last six games by dominating the second period, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead and sending Brooks into a rage in the locker room.
Brooks was so upset with Dino Ciccarelli and Neal Broten, who were on the ice for three of the Kings' four second-period goals, that he undressed them.
"He told them to take their equipment off and shower up," defenseman Curt Giles said.
Brooks refused to explain the reasons for his actions.
And Ciccarelli and Broten, who are Minnesota's No. 1 and No. 3 scorers, had left before reporters were allowed into the North Stars' locker room.
Brooks, however, did say: "The second period was the worst period of hockey I've ever been associated with. It was a disgrace, and I'm ashamed to have been a part of it."
He refused, though, to say that benching Ciccarelli and Broten provided impetus for a third period in which the North Stars were as dominant as the Kings had been in the second.
How, then, could Brooks explain the final 20 minutes, in which the Kings rarely got the puck out of their own zone and were outshot, 16-5?
"I have no idea," he said. "I'm just the coach. If I knew anything, I'd have a real job."
The Kings, who have their own problems, were happy just to end their five-game trip with a victory, no matter their inconsistencies.
Remarkably, this was the first time in 21 games this season that the Kings had won a game in which they trailed at the end of the first period.
They are 1-16-4 in such situations.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Kings got second-period goals from Ken Hammond, Mark Hardy, Bernie Nicholls and Luc Robitaille, then hung on in the third.
"We didn't play like we wanted to in any of the periods, except the second," King Coach Robbie Ftorek said, "so it wasn't really a game where you say, 'Gee, it was a real good game.'
"But what you do say is, 'This is a game we got two points out of.' You can have good games and not get two points, so we're going to accept these two points and go from here."
Having done so, the Kings no longer are sole possessors of the NHL's worst record. They now share that distinction with the North Stars, who are 2-11-3 since beating Vancouver Dec. 8.
"We wanted to win this game very badly so we could have a good feeling going home," Ftorek said. "We've got to keep pace with the other teams in our division and we've got to keep a good feeling within ourselves."
They weren't feeling too well after the first period.
"Both Robbie and Bryan (Maxwell, Ftorek's assistant) came in and said we weren't paying a price to win," said Mike Allison, who assisted on Robitaille's goal and has 14 points in 14 games with the Kings.
"And we looked at each other and said, 'Let's go out and do it.' "
When they did, it was the North Stars in general and Brooks in particular who weren't feeling up to par.
To what could he attribute the North Stars' downfall in the second period?
"Good effort by Los Angeles," he said, tight-lipped.
And had he been encouraged by anything his team had done?
"No," he said.
The North Stars are 13-24-7, including a 6-15-1 record in the Met Center. The Kings are 14-26-5. . . . The North Stars pulled goaltender Kari Takko at the end of the second period, replacing him with Don Beaupre. . . . The Kings' goaltender, Glenn Healy, made 41 saves, one less than his season high, in improving his record to 6-11-1 . . . . Bernie Nicholls, who scored during a Minnesota power play, leads the NHL with six short-handed goals. . . . Mike Allison has points in nine straight games. During his streak, he has eight goals and five assists. . . . The Kings, who were 2-2-1 on the trip, return home today and open a three-game home stand Wednesday night at the Forum against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals beat the Kings, 10-3, Dec. 6 at Landover, Md. . . . At this point last season, the Kings were 20-21-4. . . . Jim Fox, who has the flu, flew home Monday to Los Angeles. . . . Tom Laidlaw did not play because of a groin injury.