First, there was elation. Then it turned into doubt. Finally, disbelief.
The Kings' bench might as well have been equipped with a sway bar to keep passengers in place during the emotional roller coaster that was the final seconds of their 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
Ultimately, the heroics of Dustin Brown were not enough for the Kings to get a standings point on a night Jeff Carter returned to the lineup for the first time since Oct. 18. The Kings instead were left wondering about a goalie interference call that negated what would have been Brown's second goal in a matter of seconds at Staples Center.
"It goes from one extreme to the other," Brown said. "I knew it was in the net, on the ice."
Brown whacked at the puck as it was against the right pad of Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot at the goal line with 9.8 seconds left. Officials determined that the puck crossed the line and announced it as a goal. But then the league ruled that Brown pushed Talbot's pad with his stick on his attempt. Brown vehemently disagreed.
"I'm hitting the puck in front of his pad," Brown said. "What am I supposed to do? It's frustrating. If the puck's trapped under his pad, and I jam his pad under the net, I can live with that. But the puck's not under his pad. It's loose. I'm hitting the puck. Does my stick touch his pad? Yeah, but the puck's right there."
The backdrop of the bizarre sequence is that Edmonton has recently complained about being on the wrong end of numerous goalie interference calls. The Kings have been involved in their share, too, and coach John Stevens was predictably annoyed.
"I think the league is so confused and I'm confused, right?" Stevens said. "I don't think they know what it is, so how the hell are we supposed to know what it is, right? There's a loose puck sitting in the crease, and he jams at it in the net. I sure as heck would like to see it count as a goal. I think that's just a good, hard hockey goal."
Brown delivered a masterful redirect to pull the Kings to 4-3 with 18 seconds left. The Kings also got Tyler Toffoli's strike in the second period, just his second goal in 20 games, and Tobias Rieder got his first goal with the Kings.
However, the underlying feeling was that the Kings did not do enough in the first half of the game to win, even with Carter giving them a boost at the start.
Activated from long-term injured reserve after just three practices, Carter got big cheers when he went out for his first shift with usual linemates Tanner Pearson and Toffoli.
But the Kings mismanaged the puck. Both of Edmonton's second-period goals caught the Kings changing out players, but they were also facilitated by Kings turnovers. Jake Muzzin lost the puck in the neutral zone and Jujhar Khaira went to the net against Christian Folin and snapped the puck high past Jonathan Quick for a 3-1 lead. Drew Doughty had the puck poked off his stick, and Edmonton went the other way before Leon Draisaitl buried a two-on-one pass from Michael Cammalleri to make it 2-0.
"We didn't play great," Rieder said. "We were always a step late in the first two periods. We got it going in the third period, but it was a little too late."