The Kings, finally assured of a spot in the playoffs, have chosen this point in the season to begin playing with the gusto and verve that they had shown in brief flashes earlier on.
Their 5-4 victory over the Calgary Flames before 8,437 in the Forum Monday night showed as much.
The lead changed hands three times before the Kings took control of a physical game in the third period. The Kings (31-38-8) allowed the Flames two goals in the period, scoring only one themselves, but did not crumble as they have so often before in the final period.
On Saturday, for example, the Kings also held a two-goal lead going into the third period, but on that occasion the Flames won, 4-3.
"Everybody grit their teeth a little bit and dug down," King Coach Mike Murphy said of Monday's effort. "It wasn't an easy game. I thought our group played hard."
On a night of penalties, the Kings survived a power play with little more than a minute to play. The Flames got the two-man advantage when they pulled their goaltender with 53 seconds left to play.
The Flames (46-30-2) could easily have coasted these last few games, but instead have begun to make a run at the first-place Edmonton Oilers. The Flames have won eight of their last 10 games.
The Kings emerged from the second period with a 4-2 lead--which the Flames trimmed at 3:46 in the third, Jim Peplinski's screened shot making it 4-3.
But, unlike their play in Saturday's loss, the Kings did not crumble.
Dave Taylor restored the two-goal lead 7:14 into the third period. With several Kings swirling around the net, Phil Sykes appeared to have scored but the puck bounced out. Taylor scored on the rebound to give the Kings a 5-3 lead.
The Flames again came back, Joe Mullen scoring his 46th goal at 10:16 to bring the Flames to within one at 5-4.
Many of the Calgary fans in the Forum were delighted when Lanny McDonald put the puck into the goal with about eight minutes left. However, the officials ruled that the play had been offsides and the goal was disallowed.
The Kings then held off the Flames' the rest of the way.
Defense was their strongpoint early on, too. King goaltender Rollie Melanson was three times busier in the first period than his counterpart, Rejean Lemelin. Melanson had to face 13 shots, while his teammates managed only four.
But the Kings made the most of their chances. They scored on their first shot, on a power play that began 14 seconds into the game.
Taylor took a pass from Luc Robitaille and flipped the puck in from the left side to give the Kings a 1-0 lead 50 seconds into the game. It was Taylor's first goal in 10 games and the only goal of the period.
But not the only action. On the Flames' second power play, beginning at 14:44, Calgary put together its most sustained attack, forcing Melanson to make five saves.
The Kings made the first of three potentially costly mistakes with only three seconds left in the first period. That was when Dave (Tiger) Williams pushed the butt end of his stick into Mike Bullard's chest. Williams was assessed a five-minute penalty.
"The linesman didn't see it," Murphy said, "He saw a man on the ice (Bullard) and assumed it was Tiger (who had put him there). He (William) is a marked man in the league. It was overreaction on the officials' part."
Either way, the Flames took immediate advantage and responded by scoring two goals.
The first came from Steve Bozek 1:44 into the second period. The second was from Al MacInnis at 4:45. MacInnis faked a shot from the top of the slot, and two King defensemen went down to the ice to block the shot. MacInnis held on to the puck and lifted his shot into the net to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Williams came out of the penalty box and two Flames ran at him. The ensuing fight put Williams back in the box but gave the Kings a four-minute power play.
Not much time had elapsed on the man advantage when Jay Wells took an ill-advised swing at Bozek. His roughing penalty negated the King power play.
Then, Joe Paterson picked up the third King penalty of the period, giving the Flames their fifth power play of the game.
The Kings appeared to have picked the wrong team with which to tangle--the Flames have the No. 1 power play in the NHL, while the Kings are 21st in penalty killing in the league.
The Kings successfully killed that penalty, though, and got a short-handed goal in the process. Sean McKenna bolted through a trailing Flame line and beat Lemelin to tie the score at 2-2 with 12:42 gone in the period.
Jimmy Carson helped give the Kings the lead 15 seconds later. He streaked up the ice and slid a pass to Paterson on the left side. Paterson had to reach to get the puck, but did so and beat Lemelin.
Carson scored on a power play with only 10 seconds left in the period to give the Kings a two-goal lead at 4-2. Dean Kennedy shot from the right point and Carson put the puck in off a deflection.
The Kings regained their shooting touch in the second, getting ten shots to Calgary's six.