From the day the wing Marian Gaborik joined the Kings in a pre-deadline trade with Columbus and was placed alongside center Anze Kopitar, the two European-born forwards seemed to have an instant and productive chemistry.
Yet, even as they piled up points, Kopitar continued to insist their connection and timing were good, but not great.
"Sometimes little plays that you don't really notice, you can make it sharper, make it quicker," Kopitar said. "In that regard we can be better. I guess on the score sheet tonight it was fairly OK."
If Gaborik's performance Saturday in converting setups from Kopitar to score the tying and winning goals in the Kings' 3-2 overtime victory over the Ducks in the opener of the teams' second-round playoff series was "fairly OK," just think of what the duo might accomplish when they're really in sync.
Think back, too, to Jeff Carter, the Kings' last significant acquisition from Columbus and how much he contributed to the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup run. It's enough for Kings fans to start sending flowery thank-you notes to the Blue Jackets.
Gaborik, 32, filled a scoring need for the Kings at the relatively cheap price of little-used forward Matt Frattin, a second-round draft pick in 2014 or 2015, and a conditional third-round pick. The catch, of course, is that the Slovakian wing can become an unrestricted free agent after this season and leave without the Kings getting any compensation.
But they're doing their best to prolong their season and delay his decision, first by rebounding from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks in the first round and, on Saturday, by setting him up for the tying goal with seven seconds left in the third period and the winner 12 minutes and 7 seconds into sudden-death play.
That should accelerate any last remaining adjustments for him to completely fit in.
"I'm glad to be here, of course," he said. "This team has a lot of system plays that are working for us so far and has been since they won a Cup. This team has been a contender for the past few years and I'm just glad to be part of it. I just have to keep going."
The Kings were able to keep going after their emotional victory over the Sharks by putting it behind them, for now. Later, depending on how long this playoff road winds into May and June, they can look back and savor it. On Saturday, facing a hostile crowd at Honda Center and a Ducks team that has been off since last Sunday, the Kings had to be at their best.
They weren't, at least not at first. They went 17 minutes without a shot from midway in the first period until deep into the second period, but somehow they found the physical and mental strength to mount yet another comeback.
"We put that series behind us. We just had to focus and prepare for this series," Gaborik said. "We weren't sharp in some parts of the game. We gave them some odd-man rushes and turned some pucks over, but we came back and it was a very important win for us. We just have to regroup and come back in Game 2."
He spoke softly, almost unemotionally, but Kopitar smiled broadly enough for both of them in discussing what he has learned about Gaborik since the right wing became his teammate.
"I knew he was really fast. I knew he had a ton of offensive ability. I wasn't sure he could shoot the puck as hard as he can, but he definitely surprised me with that," Kopitar said. "It's a good fit for this team."
There's that word again — fit.
"We never really had a left shot with that scoring ability. It's great," Kopitar said. "I guess it's a little bit of versatility when we're on the ice. A few more threats usually doesn't hurt."
A few scoring threats and a lot of goals from Gaborik can only help keep the Kings moving along.
"It feels great," he said. "This is one game, we're up, 1-0. We have to regroup for Game 2. We're not done."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun