LOS ANGELES -- The 2016 edition of the San Jose Sharks couldn't have asked for a better test of its resiliency than the one it received in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
Playing in a hostile building and battling the ghosts from their meltdown against the same opponent in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks had all the excuses in the world to fold their tent when they fell behind on two occasions in the first 38 minutes of the series opener.
But they didn't.
The Sharks took every body blow the Kings could deliver, fended off the cruel hand of fate on its numerous visits through 60 minutes of back-and-forth hockey and skated off the ice with a statement-making 4-3 victory that puts them in temporary charge of the best-of-7 series.
"I thought we deserved to win and we found a way to win," coach Peter DeBoer said.
DeBoer was not the coach of the team that blew a 3-0 series lead to the Kings two years ago. He was not the coach of the Sharks when they missed the playoffs last season. He was brought in, in part, to change the culture, to provide a bridge away from the painful past.
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Pavelski scores two, nets game-winner
Game 1 was the biggest test to date of how successful he has been in that task. Could a room full of players who can't escape their past move forward toward the opportunity at redemption that lies before them in this series?
It was the question at the forefront of every storyline as the rematch got underway.
It was asked more loudly when defenseman Jake Muzzin used a behind-the-goal-line bank shot that went off the skate of San Jose forward Tomas Hertl and into the net to give the home team the lead 2:53 into the series.
Suddenly, the Sharks were being scrutinized for signs of panic.
Instead, they stood tall.
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Jones denies Doughty, Andreoff
Just over 3 ½ minutes later, the Sharks made it 1-1 on a goal by their captain and emotional compass, Joe Pavelski.
"That was the story of the night, the strength of our guys not to change the way we were playing," Pavelski said.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead 6:50 into the second period, only to see Kings center Jeff Carter bank a shot off the stick of defenseman Brent Burns, off the shoulder of goaltender Martin Jones and into the net.
Two goals against for Jones, making his first career playoff start, and he wasn't to blame on either.
Was it time for the wheels to fall off? No.
"For me, I didn't want to panic," Jones said. "That's playoff hockey; a lot of bounces around the net and that is how goals are scored."
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Jones makes glove save on redirection
Jones was beaten cleanly on the third goal, a beautiful length-of-the-ice shorthanded rush by Trevor Lewis that ended with a toe-drag deke and well-placed wrist shot to give the home team a 3-2 lead.
But Hertl answered 30 seconds later to tie the game and send it into the third tied at 3-3.
"Every goal is big momentum swing, going back and forth," Burns said. "I think that is a big energy drain for the other team when you score right away; so that was a big shift."
Not as big as the first one in the third period. After the Kings iced the puck, Pavelski beat Kopitar on the faceoff and reclaimed the puck after it was dumped into the corner by defenseman Justin Braun. He got inside position on Kopitar, the Kings' best defensive forward, came around the net and beat him and goalie Jonathan Quick with a wraparound 17 seconds into the third period.
"As I grab [the puck], it just kind of sticks to my stick a little bit and it allows me to swing around a little quicker," Pavelski said. "I didn't know it went in, to be honest."
Video: SJS@LAK, Gm1: Burns rips it by Quick off the faceoff
Finally, a bit of providence visited the Sharks and helped provide the game-winning goal in their most important win since they trudged off the ice as dejected losers after Game 7 against these same Kings two springs ago.
But perhaps the biggest sign that the 2016 Sharks believe they are a different team was their reaction to a win so many wanted to interpret as a character-changer.
So what does a victory in Game 1 of the series for the Sharks?
Not much, according to Burns.
"You enjoy it for two or three slices of pizza," he said, "and then you move on; maybe four slices if it's me."