It was the best of times, it was the worst of time for the Los Angeles Kings, in other words, it's a tale of two teams.
There's no doubt the Kings have struggled this season as they have tried to keep their proverbial heads above water without All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick and winger Marian Gaborik.
The Kings currently find themselves outside of the eight Western Conference teams that make the NHL Playoffs, although admittedly it's still very early in the season.
Nevertheless, the two-time Stanley Cup Champions are 0-6 in regulation this season and have a -9 goal differential, the second worst in the conference.
On the other hand, there's another team on the ice that's worth noting. The gritty, determined team with the heart of the champion that is undefeated in overtime this season.
Thursday night at Staples Center was a prime example as the Kings showed their tenacity and toughness against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Kings entered the game on a three-game losing streak, and were shutout in each of those three contests. To make matters worse, they quickly fell behind the eight ball as Sidney Crosby put the Penguins on the board first, just 7:28 in the first period.
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"We marvel at him sometimes with how good he is," said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan of Crosby. "He is a threat on every shift and on both ends of the ice. He's playing inspirational hockey right now."
The Kings scoreless streak reached 10 straight periods before Trevor Lewis cleaned up in front of the net early in the second period allowing LA to tie the game.
After momentarily taking the lead on a rare Matt Greene goal—his first since March of 2015—to start the third period, it was again Crosby who got the equalizer on a redirect in front of the net.
"We needed to end that skid," Greene said of ending the scoreless streak. "That was a good game for us against a really good team."
Momentum shifted to Pittsburgh and it could have been easy for the Kings to roll over and die inside the iceberg. Without Quick, backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff, Andy Andreoff, Brayden McNabb and Gaborik, nobody would have blamed the Kings for losing to the best team in the NHL.
But instead, they rose to the occasion. After Crosby tied the game, the Penguins quickly went on the power play with a chance to yield the Kings into submission.
The Kings stood strong, killed the penalty and kept telling themselves, "if this goes to overtime, we've got it."
"I told them we just got to fight through that stuff," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "We just kept talking about keeping our composure and making the right play."
Sure enough, the Kings sent the game to extra time and scored the game-winning goal on a smooth but spectacular finish by center Nic Dowd. The goal was just Dowd's second of his career, and the first game-winner in the rookie's career.
"It was nothing special," Dowd said modestly. "I just made a move and luckily that side was open. I pulled it to my backhand after waiting for a little bit and luckily it was open."
The goal improved the Kings record to 5-0 in extra time this season as all five wins have come via the 3-on-3 overtime format, or by virtue of a penalty shootout.
"It's a big win for us," Greene said. "Obviously you want to get these wins in regulation, but we will take the points how we get them."
More than the win, the victory should give the Kings added confidence that they can contend without their stars on the ice.
The Kings and Penguins have combined to win four of the last eight Stanley Cup trophies in recent years, but at this point in the season, only the Penguins seemed prime to contend for the Cup in 2017.
After hoisting the trophy in 2014, the Kings missed the postseason the following season and were bounced from the first round of the Western Conference playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in just five games last season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons and are the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, on the precipice of a dynasty as they possess the best player in the NHL in Crosby who is still just 29-years-old.
Even with Crosby and a four-game winning streak, the Penguins lost to the undermanned Kings and were unable to complete the Southern California sweep after defeating the Ducks 5-1 on Wednesday in Anaheim.
Hopefully, the Kings victory can give the boys the hope and faith they need to not just stay afloat but flourish without some of their better players on the ice.
For more on this game, including videos and game notes, check out the recap below: