As if there wasn't enough on the line for the upcoming Stadium Series game between the Kings and Sharks, a glance at the NHL standings served as reinforcement.
San Jose: 66 points. Kings: 66 points.
The Kings reached that total by defeating the fading Colorado Avalanche, 4-1, on Wednesday night at Pepsi Center with three second-period goals and a stellar effort from goalie Jonathan Quick and his 42 saves, recording their sixth straight victory, tying a season mark. They won six straight in October and promptly fell into a road abyss.
It couldn't be much closer between the Kings and Sharks, who play on Saturday in Santa Clara at the home of the San Francisco 49ers.
But the Kings, who have two games in hand, hold the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference
San Jose could be back in the lead by the time they play on Saturday because the Sharks face the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
This, clearly, is life at the other end of the tunnel as the Kings emerged from the darkness, having won their last three road games.
"It's two points," Quick said, repeating his mantra. "Either feel good because you got two points. Or you don't."
He hasn't noticed much of a change during the winning streak.
"Nothing in particular," Quick said. "I was asked the same question after the last win. We prepare the same way. Nothing really sticks out in particular."
He did pay tribute to the penalty killing as the Avalanche failed to score on the man advantage despite plenty of possession time. Colorado was 0 for 3 on the power play.
Leading the way was Kings center Jeff Carter, who scored twice, including an empty-netter, and linemate Tyler Toffoli scored a goal, his team-leading 19th, and added an assist. Captain Dustin Brown had the other goal, coming off a great individual effort by defenseman Drew Doughty.
"When we struggled prior, we had one line going a night," Brown said. "Whether it was Carts' line or Kopi's [Anze Kopitar] line, whoever's line it was. Carts' line has been really good for us. But we've had other lines pitch in.
"I think a lot of it is our D-zone has been a lot better. Tonight we gave up a lot more than we wanted to but Quickie stepped up."
Brown's goal, his 10th, made it 3-1 at 15:30 of the second period as the Kings rallied from a 1-0 deficit, after one period, with three straight goals in the second.
"We had a good overall shift and the puck bounced out to him, [Doughty] just had really good patience," Brown said. "He said he wasn't passing to me. Gabby [Marian Gaborik] was behind me, maybe, but it worked. It was one of those things you expect, really."
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter talked about the importance of balanced scoring too. "With the way the schedule is and the way the season is and the importance of every game, you need something out of everybody," he said.