With nearly 2 weeks until Thanksgiving, the Kings have recorded their 10th victory of the season. That counts as a fast start for Los Angeles, which did not win its 10th game last season until the day after Christmas.
The early No. 10 Thursday night was a 7-2 decision over the Hartford Whalers, a team dragging through a tough trip that included a 3-hour bus ride from Vancouver, Canada, Wednesday night, followed by an early flight from Seattle to get to Los Angeles.
“I read about that in the paper this morning,” said a smiling Luc Robitaille, who had 2 goals and an assist and was anything but sympathetic. “That had to help us. I read that and I said, ‘Oh, you’d better get some rest this afternoon.’ ”
The Kings just returned from a 12-day trip of their own. The home-ice advantage should be a comfort after an excursion such as that.
But it did make for a pretty one-sided game. Apparently the fans saw it coming. The gathering of just 12,496 at the Forum was one of the smallest of the season.
The long lines at the ticket windows were deceiving. Those fans were buying tickets for Saturday night’s game, when Mario Lemieux, the league’s leading scorer and the man who beat Wayne Gretzky for the scoring title last season, comes to town with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That game promises to be more of a contest than this race past the Whalers.
King Coach Robbie Ftorek said that the idea was to get out to a quick start. “You have to start quick against a team that might be fatigued,” he said.
And Bernie Nicholls added: “We had those 3 power plays early, and our power play has been working pretty well lately. When you just keep coming and keep coming at them like that, the other team gets a little tired and, eventually, they’re going to let down.”
Whaler Coach Larry Pleau refused to blame the defeat on a canceled charter flight.
“We had no fatigue,” Pleau said. “We didn’t play the way we can play, that’s for sure. Give L.A. credit. They have a good hockey team, and they outworked us tonight and outplayed us one-on-one, and that was the difference in that game.”
That and the shots on goal. Pleau added: “They had lots of shots, and that’s a lot of rubber coming at you.”
In the end, the Kings’ Glenn Healy faced only 30 shots to the 42 faced by Whaler goalie Mike Liut, as the Kings’ record rose to 10-6 and the Whalers’ dropped to 6-9-1.
Carey Wilson scored Hartford’s first goal on a long slapshot just 11 seconds after Doug Crossman had flipped in his own rebound 1 minute 39 seconds into the game.
But the Kings took the lead when John Tonelli scored on a pass from Steve Duchesne, and every goal after that just padded the lead.
The 2-1 lead at the end of the first period wasn’t really indicative of how convincingly the Kings had controlled the ice. The 17-4 margin in shots on goal told the story.
Nicholls, Rob Carpenter and Duchesne scored for the Kings in the second period. Then Robitaille took over in the third period, scoring his 2 goals, the first on a pass from Gretzky and the second on a rebound of a shot by Dave Taylor.
Defenseman Joel Quenneville added a final goal for the Whalers.
But the night was not all good news for the Kings.
Defenseman Dean Kennedy suffered a frightening injury when he slammed into the boards with 10:26 to play in the second period. He was knocked unconscious and then suffered what appeared to be a seizure, according to trainer Pete Demers. After more than 5 minutes on the ice and after being examined by the team doctor, Steve Lombardo, Kennedy was taken off on a stretcher. The preliminary diagnosis was that he had a concussion. He was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for observation and precautionary X-rays. Lombardo said that Kennedy was moving and was alert when he left the Forum.
Saturday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins is a sellout. It is the Kings’ fourth sellout of the season and the first advance sellout. Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux, the league’s leading scorer, had been out with a wrist injury, but he played Thursday night in the Penguins’ 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs and is expected to play Saturday night. . . . King defenseman Tom Laidlaw, who missed the recent trip because of a pulled hamstring, played Thursday night. . . . Wayne Gretzky picked up his first penalty minutes of the season Thursday night, 2 minutes for slashing at 14:25 of the first period. Gretzky’s scoring streak of 16 straight games is the fifth-longest in Kings history. . . . The Kings’ consecutive-games scoring streak went to 187.