That's all it took to answer the biggest question of the season for the Stockton Heat.
It was the first time the Heat had a brush with adversity this season, carrying a three-game losing skid into Monday's matinee against divisional foe Colorado.
How would the Heat respond?
The team entered Monday's matinee game smarting from a tough-to-swallow 4-3 Saturday loss, a game in which the Heat battled back to erase a 3-1 third period deficit against these same Eagles only to allow the game-winner with 58 ticks remaining.
So when the puck dropped Monday, it was time to answer the first test of the season.
And they came up aces.
Stockton connected with the first haymaker.
Then they landed the second. And the third. And fourth and fifth.
Five to zero. Not just answering the bell, but answering emphatically, and right from the opening jump.
"It was huge," said head coach Cail MacLean, about Buddy Robinson's early strike to set the tone for the day.
"Scoring early is always nice, especially in a (bounce back) game like this," agreed forward Glenn Gawdin. "That was as good as it gets."
"It makes the game easier to get one early, gives you an adrenaline rush," said Robinson.
There was no coming down from that high, apparently.
Start to finish, it was a dominant performance for a Heat club that came out with a clear intention of not letting a three-game slide reach four. The ice was tilted throughout, the Heat peppering Adam Werner with 43 shots while conceding just 18 pucks to be dealt with by Artyom Zagidulin, who notched his second shutout over the last 10 days. Stockton went 1-for-4 on the man-advantage while holding Colorado scoreless on five chances.
Over the full 60, it was just about as complete a performance as the Heat have had all season.
Gawdin and Robinson had a goal and assist each. Byron Froese lit the lamp twice. Austin Czarnik notched a pair of helpers.
For all of the accomplishments of the Heat this season, and there have been many, there weren't many questions left for this group to answer. Scoring depth, check. Stout defense, check. Special teams play, check and check. Perhaps the only unturned stone was seeing how Stockton would respond when the adversity finally hit, when one loss became two - which it took 37 games to record back-to-back regulation losses - and two became three.
Question no more, the Heat are more than frontrunners. This group is in it for the long haul, more than ready to scrap when needed. It's a trait that will serve them well as they continue to not only push for the club's second-ever playoff berth, but a possible division championship.
Only one game separates Stockton from the AHL's All-Star Break, a Friday night tilt against the Ontario Reign - one final exam to pass before recess.
- Stockton now has three shutouts over the last three weeks: two for Zagidulin and one for Jon Gillies. The Heat have conceded just 21 goals over the last 10 games.
- Austin Czarnik has eight points (3g,5a) in Stockton's last seven games. He also scored the first goal of Stockton's Teddy Bear Toss game Saturday.
- Gawdin has matched his rookie season's scoring output with 38 points (13g,25a) this season. He is a plus-12.
- It took 37 games for the Heat to lose back-to-back games in regulation.
- Stockton is the AHL's best team when scoring first, now 16-1-1-2 (.875 point percentage).
THEY SAID IT:
"The whole team was interested in making sure they played for each other. That really comes through. When you get that going, the guys are capable of a lot and today was a solid game for us." - MacLean on Monday's slump-busting win
"We had some good games, but we weren't getting the results we wanted. I thought we sagged last game. I thought the guys responded with a much better effort, then the result went in our direction today. It was good to see." - MacLean on the team's response to adversity
"As cliché as it is, we're playing a full 60. (Colorado is) a good team. It was kind of tight throughout. We couldn't sit back and let them get momentum. We thought we'd keep playing the way we were and chances were going to come. We capitalized, and that's a key moving forward." - Gawdin on Stockton's killer instinct with putting games away in the third period
"Huge. It's so big. You want to go into the break feeling good, get that rest for your body. Everyone go spend some time with family and friends, come back ready to hit the stretch in Frebruary." - Robinson on the importance of winning Friday