It would have been easy for Lightning players to say after their last-minute loss to the Penguins on Saturday that they hung in with one of the league's top teams.
"But (forget) that," left wing Alex Killorn said. "We want to be up there with them. We want to be better than them. We knew we had to come to work the next day, and we did."
The payoff Tuesday night was a confidence-boosting 5-1 victory over the Kings in front of an announced crowd of 16,310 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Right wing Marty St. Louis had two goals and an assist to reach 902 Lightning points. Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell and Ondrej Palat scored. Defenseman Victor Hedman had seven of Tampa Bay's 17 blocks, and goaltender Ben Bishop made 30 saves to improve to 4-0-0.
But perhaps most important for Tampa Bay (4-2-0) were the technical aspects of the game, especially against a big, strong, well-structured opponent such as the 2012 Stanley Cup champs.
The Lightning's picked-on penalty kill, which allowed six goals the previous three games, was 5-for-5, including a four-minute kill of Sami Salo's high-sticking penalty.
"A big part of the game for us," coach Jon Cooper said, explaining how his players took time and space from the Kings power play.
The forwards, too, throughout the game did as well as they ever have helping out in the defensive zone, making it easier to move the puck.
"They were hemming us in a little bit in the first period, but we felt them out, what they were about," Cooper said. "By the third period we were coming out clean. A big part of that was our forwards coming back."
"And in the offensive zone," Killorn said, "we were finishing hits and being relentless on pucks, creating turnovers."
The Kings did not roll over. They had a 31-25 shot advantage, and when Slava Voynov scored with 9:33 left in the third period, it was 3-1.
But goals by St. Louis (to end a pretty passing sequence between Steven Stamkos and Malone) and Palat reestablished the cushion.
Such an effort shouldn't have been a surprise, Killorn said.
No one made any speeches or raised their voice after the loss to the Penguins, which came on Matt Niskanen's goal with 18.6 seconds left, "It's more of the vibe guys are feeling in the room. We feel like we're right up there with those teams."
"You're so excited to come to the rink because you know you have this kind of group who wants to battle back after that tough loss," Hedman said. "Everybody paid the price to win the game. We're proud of the effort."