Trailing the Edmonton Oilers in games, 3-1, the Kings figured to have about as much chance to win the best-of-seven Smythe Division finals as wing Tomas Sandstrom had of playing with a broken leg.
Well, Friday night Sandstrom did his part. Only six days after suffering the fracture, he was taking his long strides on the Forum ice, back in action for Game 5.
And the Kings, led by Luc Robitaille's three goals, took their first long stride toward a series comeback, beating the Oilers, 5-2, before a sellout crowd of 16,005.
Game 6 will be played Sunday night in Edmonton.
"Our line especially has to come up and score goals," said Robitaille, whose hat trick was his first in the postseason. "It was no big deal. I was in front three times and it came on my stick. I never looked."
King goalie Kelly Hrudey withstood a furious Oiler charge in the final period to get the victory. Edmonton outshot the Kings, 15-4, in the final 20 minutes.
The Oilers had the overall edge in shots on goal, 25-22.
And they had the early lead.
The Kings' defense didn't look any better at the start of Game 5 than it did at times in Game 4.
When Anatoli Semenov took a pass from Joe Murphy before crossing the blue line, he had clear ice ahead.
Not a King in sight.
That gave Semenov the opportunity to rush the net cautiously. He made good use of the time, backhanding the puck past Hrudey from the right post for his fourth postseason goal at 10:01.
Edmonton had a chance to extend its lead when Wayne Gretzky drew a rare penalty for high sticking.
Instead, Mike Donnelly came up with the puck and whipped it to the open Steve Kasper at mid-ice. With Esa Tikkanen breathing down his neck all the way, Kasper skated through the slot and smashed the puck between goalie Grant Fuhr's legs at 12:48 of the period for the short-handed goal that tied the game. It was Kasper's fourth goal of the playoffs.
And it turned out to be the turning point.
Robitaille put the Kings ahead on a play in which two penalties could have been called.
First, Oiler defenseman Steve Smith pulled Robitaille down, but the King wing managed to shovel the puck to Steve Duchesne in the middle. Duchesne, too, was pulled down, but, as he tumbled to the ice, he pushed the puck past Smith's legs into the slot where Robitaille took it and shot it past Fuhr at 15:08.
Robitaille scored his second goal on a power play at 19:03 to give the Kings a 3-1 lead.
Fuhr made a great stop on Brian Benning from point-blank range, but Sandstrom corraled the loose puck and fed Robitaille, who scored under Fuhr's right arm.
Robitaille completed his hat trick at the 13:42 mark of the second period on a play in which Todd Elik was the key.
Checked off the puck, Elik regained control and shot it down the slot, Robitaille redirecting it past Fuhr on the short side to boost the Kings to a 4-1 lead.
"Luc's game is to poke around the goal and get rebounds," Coach Tom Webster said. "He's concerned about being selfish, but it's not selfish. . . . It's his game."
The Oilers made it 4-2 by scoring with four seconds left on a power play early in the third period after having missed on their first four attempts. Charlie's Huddy shot went in off Glenn Anderson's skate 5:04 into the period, giving Anderson four postseason goals.
But at the 15:04 mark of the period, Elik gave the Kings some insurance, scoring his second postseason goal after stealing a pass from Martin Gelinas.
"Edmonton played pretty well in the third," Hrudey said. "They came at us. . . . We just held our ground."
When it was over, much of the talk was about Sandstrom's amazing performance.
"This kid is as tough as they come," Gretzky said. "He's got a fracture. Anybody else would have had a cast on. He has heart.
"Being out there, he opened up a little bit of ice for everybody."
Gretzky, too, played hurt, again receiving medication to deaden the pain in his left ear. Gretzky received a deep laceration in that ear from a flying puck in Game 3, requiring 25 stitches.
"It's either that or I don't play," he said of the medication. "I want to play."
And play he will, for at least for one more game.
The Kings are attempting to become only the ninth team in league history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.
But it's something they accomplished two seasons ago. Against the Oilers.
"It's not impossible," Webster said. "It's been done before.
"We have our hands full, but it certainly is nice to be jumping on a plane and going back to Edmonton to play some more hockey."
The Oilers continue to struggle on the power play. Coming into the game two for 22 in the series, they went one for seven Friday. The Kings were one for five. . . . With Tomas Sandstrom back, Ilkka Sinisalo, who had replaced him on the first line, was scratched.
It was Craig Muni night at the Forum. Fans took their anger out on the Edmonton defenseman for his damaging hits on both Sandstrom and Bob Kudelski. A dummy of Muni hanging from a noose was paraded around the Forum and a song sheet, containing the words to an "Ode to Muni," were handed out. . . . The Kings did not lose to the Oilers at home in the regular season, going 3-0-1. . . . Friday's sellout was the Kings' 30th in a row.