This looked like the game everyone expected to see from the Kings earlier in the week, one in which they were lacking chemistry, were sluggish and flat-out tired after returning home from a seven-game trip that lasted almost two weeks.
The impact didn't hit them Tuesday in a win against Calgary but seemed to finally strike Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
After two-plus periods, it lifted just in time. The Kings stirred to life in the third, sparked by a gritty goal by a determined Jeff Carter. The center jump-started his teammates and the Kings went on to defeat the Oilers, 2-1, at Staples Center.
“I think we just got better as the game went on,” said Dwight King, who scored the game winner. “Obviously, in the first, we were pretty rusty.
“We weren't very clean in our defensive end. In the third, we got a lot of pucks to the net, and bodies to the net, and those two goals were probably a foot away from the goal line.”
Carter's line took over in the third period, responsible for the tying and the go-ahead goals. The decisive goal came off a nifty backhand tip by King, at 14 minutes 10 seconds.
Not only did Carter get the primary assist on the goal, but he also won the faceoff leading to the scoring play.
“Carts is good with the puck,” King said. “He controls it for our line. When I see him carrying it like that in the zone, you go to the net. You try to get open and I was lucky enough to get a stick on it.”
Carter's goal, at 5:27 of the third, ended his seven-game goal-less streak. He was opportunistic in the scramble after linemate Tyler Toffoli's bids, as the puck was right behind goalie Cam Talbot.
Carter said the difference in the third period was straightforward.
“We just started to play,” he said. “The first two periods were not good, and we knew it and we knew that we had to get our game going. When we did, we created chances. That's about it.”
He praised Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who faced 27 shots.
“I'm thankful to have him on my team every night,” Carter said. “Thank God he was in net tonight and he showed up and played for us, because that could have been ugly the first two periods.”
Toffoli had two assists, his first multipoint performance since the Kings' 9-2 blowout against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 9. That was also the last time Carter scored; in fact, Carter had scored only three times in 2016 before Thursday night.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had spoken after Thursday's morning skate about the need to fill the scoring void filled by the loss of the injured Marian Gaborik.
“It's by committee,” Sutter said. “If you knew that you had six players that were 20-goal scorers, you know you'd have no problem. But you don't. It's even more pressure on some guys. Guys have slipped a little bit that are 20-goal scorers. … Guys are in those low numbers.”
For a goal scorer like Carter, however, it eventually comes around.
There were signs early on that Carter might break out of his slump. He had a breakaway, a short-handed bid, less than two minutes into the game and ended up with a game-high six shots on goal.
Until the third, the Oilers had the run of play. Edmonton led 1-0 after two periods while the Kings looked disconnected.
Anger replaced an increasing sense of malaise by the end of the second period for the Kings. A frustrated Milan Lucic connected with the goal post and broke his stick after the Oilers scored in the second period.
Lucic had committed a turnover in the neutral zone, that led to the Edmonton goal by Zack Kassian, who faked a shot and scored from the edge of the left circle.
Edmonton mustered a strong response after getting embarrassed in its last game, a loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Correspondent Curtis Zupke contributed to this report.