Frustrating and fascinating … often in the same game.
Yes, that might be the best way to describe the Kings after the first 35 games of this season, heading into their short Christmas break.
Exhibit A was unfurled Monday night at Staples Center.
They skated into the mini-vacation on a muted note, having blown a three-goal lead and losing, 4-3, in overtime to the Calgary Flames. For the Flames, it was their first victory in nine games.
Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, a Norris Trophy candidate, scored at 4:07 of overtime, going hard to the net and celebrating the comeback win. He leads all NHL defensemen with 10 goals and 34 points.
The stunned Kings were less than a minute from what would have been their third straight win. They held what looked to be a secure two-goal lead late in the third period.
That's when Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau took over and put the finishing touches on his first career hat trick, scoring two goals just 1:13 apart.
His first came with 2:12 remaining and the game-tying goal with 59 seconds left. Both goals came with Flames goalie Jonas Hiller pulled for the extra attacker. Gaudreau's game-tying goal actually went in past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick via the left skate of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
“The score was really not an indication of the play. About halfway through the game I think they had a lot more desperation than our team,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said.
Gaudreau scored his eighth, ninth and 10th goals of the season, a natural hat trick.
The game had similarities to the Kings' third-period collapse in St. Louis on Dec. 16. They allowed three third-period goals in that loss.
“We had control of the game from a scoreboard standpoint,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “They started rushing, having a five-man rush, and found two goals. It's not something we normally give up.”
Until the Gaudreau Show, the Kings appeared firmly in control. They led, 3-0, scoring two power-play goals, and the gifted hands of forward Marian Gaborik kept on giving.
Gaborik has scored seven goals in the Kings' last five games. He had a mere four goals until breaking loose, starting Dec. 14 in Toronto, mostly a byproduct of an injury-riddled start. His goal, coming at 17:50 of the first period, made it 2-0 as he converted his second attempt.
The other two Kings goals came from center Trevor Lewis (sixth of the season) and defenseman Jamie McBain (second of the season), on the power play. Lewis tied a career high for goals in a season, beating Hiller with a knuckler on the Kings first shot on goal, at 2:26 of the first period.
McBain, who got back in the lineup because of defenseman Robyn Regehr's hand injury, has turned into a power-play threat with one goal and two assists in the last two games. He took a slick pass from Brown and beat Hiller with a shot from the base of the right circle to make it 3-0 at 4:32 of the second.
The Flames' first goal came from Gaudreau, also on the power play, at 18:02 of the second period.
Fittingly, Giordano and Gaudreau stopped the losing streak.
The Flames have had problems scoring during this long run, except for Gaudreau, who had four goals during the losing streak and Giordano three.
“Yeah, it's really, really special for us,” Gaudreau said. “The guys were clinching the sticks pretty tight throughout the two or three weeks we were losing games.
“It's great to get a comeback against a team like this and get the win.”