The desperation that drove the Kings to end a four-game losing streak Thursday at Minnesota fueled them again Saturday while Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals came at them in waves throughout the second period and most of the third.
Simply and collectively, the Kings decided they would not let even the NHL's most prolific team overrun them and impede their progress toward a future they're sure holds a playoff spot.
"I don't think we had that desperation we needed in the first two periods. It wasn't our best effort at all," center Michal Handzus said after his short-handed goal at 2 minutes 50 seconds of the third period proved the winner in the Kings' 2-1 victory at Staples Center.
"We talked after the second that we've got to pick it up and play better, and I think that showed in the third."
Their determination in the final minutes was as unmistakable as Ovechkin's absence from the scoresheet. The stellar left wing had seven shots on goal plus three that were blocked and two that missed the net, part of a barrage in which the Capitals took 23 of their 27 shots in last two periods.
"They're one of the best offenses in the league, so you've got to expect that. You know they're going to come hard," goaltender Jonathan Quick said. "They have some of the best players in the world."
The Kings went one better, getting exceptional efforts from the shutdown defense pair of Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty to support Quick. Doughty played a game-high 26:48 -- one second more than Ovechkin -- to help the Kings record what he considered a significant accomplishment.
"It's a huge confidence boost," Doughty said.
Made possible, certainly, by their goaltender's calm and measured performance.
"Thank God for Quick today," Coach Terry Murray said. "He played outstanding in the second period and lots of pressure back at him again late in the third period. So it was a much-needed two points. A real character win."
Quick was more modest.
"Just a great team win," he said. "We know we have a good team. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing."
Their 5-2 victory at Minnesota on Thursday was built around their offense, but their defense was paramount Saturday. The Kings held the Capitals to fewer than two goals for only the third time this season and sent them to their third loss in a row, the first time this season the Capitals have lost three consecutive games in regulation.
Losing center Nicklas Backstrom in the second period to recurring migraines disrupted the Capitals' lineup but wasn't to blame for the loss.
"We just didn't use our chances in the second period," Ovechkin said. "They had one chance only and it was short-handed."
The Kings had scored first, during a power play at 19:01 of the first period, when Ryan Smyth scored on a rebound of a shot by Anze Kopitar that had been sitting at goalie Michal Neuvirth's feet.
Washington's Mike Green matched that during a power play at 2:13 of the second period. Green, passed over by the Canadian Olympic team even though he's the NHL's most productive defenseman, recorded his 10th goal and 39th point when he beat Quick with a 45-foot slap shot.
The Kings killed off their other four disadvantages -- including a 53-second, five-on-three power play the Capitals gained midway through the third period. Quick was their best penalty killer.
"He got in the zone and was unbeatable after the Mike Green goal," said Coach Bruce Boudreau, who toiled in the Kings' minor league system before getting his chance with the Capitals.
And, of course, there was Handzus' short-handed goal. That was made possible by strong play along the boards by Brad Richardson, who got a thumping from Ovechkin for his trouble.
"I was surprised he stayed on his feet because he took a big hit from Ovechkin on the play," Murray said of Richardson, who is three inches shorter and about 35 pounds lighter than the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Ovechkin. "He hung in there and did a great job."
It was finished nicely by Handzus, who has three goals and six points in his last five games after going 21 games without a goal.
"We didn't play well overall, but we dug in and we found a way and that's what it's all about it right now," Handzus said. "We needed two points and got it and now we move on and know we've got to play better."
With or without desperation behind it.