Whalers Harpoon Kings, 6-3 : NHL: Hartford starts fast, extends Los Angeles' winless streak to six games.


Planning on taking in a Kings game? Better get there early the way this season is going.

King fans who arrived at the Forum 13 seconds late Saturday found their team already behind on another dismal night.

That's how long it took the Hartford Whalers to score en route to a 6-3 victory that King Coach Tom Webster called "probably the worst game of the year."

The Kings have now gone six games without a victory, their last coming on New Year's Day.

"What can you say?" Webster said. "Brutal. Just brutal. It's just another case of a complete breakdown. It's just been building up to this point. It is very, very frustrating.

"We got cute and we didn't shoot. We're passing it out into traffic and you just can't do that. I don't want to say anymore. I'm going to get myself into trouble."

His team was in trouble all night. Hartford took a 4-0 lead before the Kings got back into it with three second-period goals before a sellout crowd of 16,005.

But the Whalers pulled away in the final period for their 13th road victory of the season, best in the NHL.

Hartford was led by Pat Verbeek and Kevin Dineen with two goals apiece.

"We should be disgusted with our play," said King captain Wayne Gretzky, "each and every one of us. We need to bust our rears together. We weren't even in the game tonight."

Not unless you count the first 13 seconds.

The red carpet, rolled up after Sharon Rosen sang the national anthem, seemed to be rolled right out again for the Whalers.

Without a King in his way, Ron Francis took the puck up the left side after the faceoff, pushed it past defenseman Larry Robinson in the circle and over to Verbeek near the right post, who shoved it in for his team-leading 22nd goal of the season.

Bad beginning.

But it didn't get any better.

Verbeek came right back with his 23rd goal at the 2:29 mark, this one coming on a power play after Luc Robitaille had been called for holding.

Scott Young took a slap shot from the top of the slot that was deflected in by Verbeek's stick, leaving goalie Kelly Hrudey helpless.

While the Whalers were moving into high gear, the Kings couldn't seem to get the ignition started.

They didn't get their first shot on goal until after five minutes had elapsed. Even then, it only came in the final 30 seconds of a power play.

At 15:05, the Whalers scored their third goal, Dineen getting his 14th.

Dineen skated up the left side and left a drop pass for Adam Burt, who passed back to Dineen on a give-and-go for the score.

By the time the period ended, the Kings had been outshot, 14-4.

The second period started much like the first.

Actually the Kings defense tightened. This time, it took the Whalers 1:51 to score.

Adam Burt took a shot from the slot that Hrudey blocked with his body. But Randy Cunneyworth was in position to flip in the rebound for his 10th goal to make the score 4-0.

The Kings began the long road back 37 seconds later. Gretzky took the puck from behind the net and dumped it in the crease, where Jay Miller was able to push it in for his fourth goal and second in three games. The assist, Gretzky's league-leading 67th, increased his point-scoring streak to 12 games.

The Kings then got a short-handed goal at 11:46 to cut the margin to 4-2. Steve Kasper passed to Bob Kudelski, who scored his 13th goal from the right circle, the puck going in on the far side past the stick of goalie Peter Sidorkiewicz.

It was 4-3 by the time the period had ended, Robitaille scoring his team-leading 33rd goal at 18:22 from about seven feet out off a pass from Gretzky.

The Whalers dominated the final period, scoring twice to put the game out of reach.

"We need to sit down and talk," Hrudey said. "We all need to communicate. It seems like we all go out there with a different game plan."

King Notes

Defenseman Marty McSorley sat out Saturday night after receiving a game misconduct Thursday. It was his third of the season, meaning an automatic one-game suspension. . . . Through 45 games, the Kings are 20-20-5 for a total of 45 points. Through the same number of games last season, they were 26-15-3, totaling 55 points.

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