In a game the Kings felt they had to win, against a team they're competing with for a Western Conference playoff berth, they overcame a third-period setback and recaptured the grit they had lost since the Olympic break.
Drew Doughty's power-play blast 3 minutes 40 seconds into overtime Monday propelled the Kings to a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, a significant feat for a team that had shown little spunk while losing five of its previous nine games.
T.J. Galiardi's rebound beat Jonathan Quick with 10 seconds left in the third period to tie the score, but the Kings gathered themselves and capitalized on a power play they gained after Ruslan Salei cross-checked Justin Williams in front of the net.
"Better game for us. Better game," Coach Terry Murray said. "I thought we showed some of that mentality that you have to have at this time of the year on a pretty consistent basis."
Ryan Smyth scored twice against the team that traded him here last summer and the Kings killed five disadvantages to stretch their penalty-killing streak to 29 and win the opener of a home-and-home series that will end Wednesday at Denver.
The Kings also moved up to fifth place and reduced their magic number to 13: They must earn 13 points or ninth-place Calgary must fail to earn 13 for the Kings to clinch their first playoff berth since the 2001-02 season.
"I thought overall we had a good game," said Doughty, who said he saw "a little space open" before he rifled a 40-foot shot past Craig Anderson from the right circle.
"We'll have momentum going into their barn. It's another two huge points for us. Every game from now on is going to be huge for us."
Every game has been big for a while, but the Kings hadn't played them with the intensity that got them this far. Their post-Olympic slide stirred unpleasant memories of past seasons' swoons, and Tim Leiweke, the Kings' governor and second-in-command to owner Phil Anschutz, acknowledged he was anxious about the team's mind-set.
"I think we have an opportunity here to be great, but I think it's going to take two things," he said. "We're going to have to learn here -- this is what the next few weeks is all about for us -- and I truly believe we've got it in that locker room. I really have faith in these guys. And I know a lot of people are suddenly nervous about us again, but this year is different. I really, really believe that."
It has taken a many years and many losses to bring about a culture change, but Leiweke thinks it's well underway.
"I think for the first time ever we have a lot of the solutions already here," he said.
The Kings scored twice in the first period, but on one of those occasions they put the puck into their own net. Right wing Chris Stewart was credited with his 28th goal when his shot from the left wing was accidentally deflected by Fredrik Modin and into the net at 7:14.
The Kings pulled even with a power-play goal at 9:51 on a crisp passing play capped when Jarret Stoll's pass was redirected inside the left post by Smyth. They took a 2-1 lead in the middle period when Wayne Simmonds controlled the puck below the goal line and took a quick backhander that slipped past Anderson at 15:41, but Colorado tied it at 4:54 of the third after Peter Mueller beat Quick.
Smyth put the Kings back ahead on a wraparound at 9:55, but Galiardi sent the game to overtime. "It's important to fight through adversity," Smyth said, and they won an important fight Monday.