They're Same Old Kings as Hartford Wins, 4-3

Times Staff Writer

The Kings, who are on the verge of changing ownership, seem to still be a long way from changing their ways.

They squandered a 3-1 second-period lead Saturday night and lost to the Hartford Whalers, 4-3, before a crowd of 13,638 at the Forum.

Co-owner Bruce McNall, who owns 49% of the Kings and has agreed to buy the remaining 51% from partner Jerry Buss to become sole owner of the team, looked on as the Kings lost for the fourth time in five games.

Afterward, Coach Robbie Ftorek kept the dressing room locked for more than 30 minutes despite a National Hockey League rule requiring that it be opened to the media 10 minutes after the game.

"We were just having a little talk, a question-and-answer session," Ftorek said. "I did a lot of listening."

What did the players tell him?

"Oh, personal stuff," he said.

Did they get around to discussing how they blew a two-goal lead to a team with the worst offense in the NHL?

"No, we didn't," he said.

Why not?

"I didn't think it was that important," he said. "I think there were things that are more important that we discussed."

Why has the Kings' intensity level dropped in the last week?

"It doesn't go down if the coach knows how to rectify it," he said.

He hasn't figured it out?

"I'm trying to get it rectified," he said. "I think we've got it figured out. I think we've had it figured out for a while. It's a problem of rectifying it. When we do, we'll be fine. Until then, we'll be a struggling team."

Ftorek said the Kings lack confidence in themselves.

"What are we doing to rectify that?" he asked, repeating a question. "We're trying to work together and feed off one another to gain confidence."

The Kings, who have the worst record in the National Hockey League, fell 14 games below .500 at 14-28-5.

The Whalers, ending a two-game losing streak, got the game-winning goal from Russ Francis, who scored from in front with 8:50 left, taking a pass from Sylvain Turgeon and beating goaltender Rollie Melanson, who was screened on the play by teammate Steve Duchesne.

"I lost it completely," Melanson said. "I didn't know where it went."

On the television replay, Francis' shot appeared to ricochet off Duchesne's stick and glance off Melanson's arm.

"We've got to find a way to improve," Melanson said. "We're not doing that. We're just standing still. We've got to work harder, obviously, and pick each other up."

Hartford knocked them down.

The Kings took their 3-1 lead by scoring three times in 2:04 midway through the first period on goals by Jimmy Carson, Phil Sykes and Paul Guay, who made a 30-foot shot from the right circle.

But then the Whalers, who have scored fewer goals than any other team in the NHL, got two in the last 7:27 of the second period, with Ulf Samuelsson scoring on a power play and former King Dave (Tiger) Williams scoring on a 20-foot shot.

King Notes

The Kings' Bob Carpenter missed the game with a shoulder injury first suffered when he played for the Washington Capitals. Carpenter aggravated the injury last month when he said he was cross-checked by Hartford's Kevin Dineen. General Manager Rogie Vachon said the injury may require off-season surgery. . . . Phil Sykes, who had missed 38 of the Kings' last 39 games with a groin injury, returned to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 22. Sykes was injured Oct. 23 at Winnipeg. . . . Wayne McBean flew home to Calgary Thursday to attend the funeral of his grandfather. He is expected to return in time for today's practice. . . . Jim Fox returned to the Kings' lineup after missing three games with the flu. . . . Dave (Tiger) Williams, released by the Kings Oct. 12 and picked up by the Whalers, has 4 goals and 0 assists in 22 games with Hartford. He also has been assessed 68 minutes in penalties, including a major penalty in the first period Saturday night for high-sticking Jay Wells, who had his helmet knocked off by his former teammate.

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