The Red Wings were coming at the Kings in waves early in the first period Saturday. Their passes were precise, their checks jarring, their plays made at a breathtaking pace — every element was there to intimidate the Kings, who had wobbled through seven losses in their previous nine games.
This time, the Kings didn't falter. In perhaps their most impressive effort of the season, they rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory at Staples Center and vaulted from ninth to fourth in a tightly packed Western Conference that's still led by Detroit.
Defenseman Alec Martinez broke up a passing play to start a three-on-two then headed to the net to draw a defenseman away from Anze Kopitar, who took a flat pass from Dustin Brown and rifled a one-timer past Chris Osgood four minutes and four seconds into sudden-death play. The crowd roared as the Kings celebrated the happy ending that followed a precarious beginning.
"Detroit's obviously a real good hockey team. The thing is we've just got to stay composed, just stick with our game, make plays and kind of weather a storm like that. Good teams are able to do that," said Martinez, whose long blast from the point had brought the Kings even at 2-2 at 7:18 of the second period.
"Fortunately, we were able to do that tonight. This was a huge two points. Western Conference, especially against a team like them. They're one of the top teams in the league. It's very encouraging."
Jonathan Quick made 27 saves for the Kings (15-10-0), including 10 in the first and 10 in the third.
"Quick had a big game here tonight against a powerful team," said Coach Terry Murray, who said earlier in the day he had scrapped his goalie schedule in order to give more playing time to Quick and less to Jonathan Bernier in the immediate future.
"That's a good hockey team."
The Red Wings (17-4-3) were playing on back-to-back nights for only the second time this season and faded as the game wore on. "We don't have our legs moving and we just didn't do our best today," forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
The Kings had a lot to do with that.
"They really took the game to us I thought, the first half of the first period. Then after the 10-minute mark we kind of got our legs underneath us and started playing," Kopitar said.
"That's where it started to roll for us. I thought we had a good second period, and the third one, it was up for grabs. That's what we have to have, especially here at home. We have to have those games. The team showed a lot of character again."
Detroit scored its first goal after a Kings turnover. Pavel Datsyuk dashed up the right side and rifled the puck at the net, with two forwards following for a rebound. The puck caromed into the left circle and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson swooped in to fire it past a helpless Quick at 15:29.
The Kings pulled even 24 seconds into the second period. Kopitar got the puck back to the left point to Rob Scuderi, who isn't known for having a booming shot but got a good one off this time. The puck deflected at least once on the way to the net and Justin Williams was credited with the goal.
Detroit surged ahead at 1:12. Quick managed to stop Johan Franzen's initial shot but the rebound bounced into the slot, where Todd Bertuzzi pounced and lifted a 20-foot shot over Quick's glove.
The Kings showed an admirable amount of persistence and tied it at 2-2. Peter Harrold passed across the ice to Martinez, whose slap shot found room through a sea of bodies and became the defenseman's second goal this season.
That was it until Martinez — who grew up near Detroit — set things in motion for the winner. "Textbook, how you draw it," Murray said.
Things haven't gone according to script for the Kings this season, but they have won two games in a row for the first time since Nov. 11-13 and they're feeling a lot better about themselves. They also extended their home penalty-killing perfection to 43 for 43.
"It's definitely a confidence booster when you win a few in a row. Things start to click," Kopitar said. "Even on the two goals we scored, maybe during the slump that really doesn't go in. That's the funny thing about hockey: when everything goes right, everything goes in. When everything goes wrong, not a chance in the world you're going to get a lucky bounce.
"I think we turned this thing around and hopefully we can keep on going."