Kris Versteeg had zero points in his first five games since being acquired by the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 28, the night before the trade deadline.
That changed on Monday, in a significant way.
The former Blackhawks forward received a video board tribute in his return to Chicago earlier in the season with Carolina, but this time, he decided to welcome himself back by potting the game's first goal 3:17 into the first period.
"Yeah, it felt good to get the monkey off the back," Versteeg said following the Kings' 5-0 win over the Blackhawks. "Obviously you have to bring your best when you play top teams in the league, and we played really well tonight."
Scoring his first goal as a member of the Kings, Versteeg let out a big fist-bump that must have felt nice against his former club.
"It wasn't actually that big, I don't think," Versteeg joked, downplaying the fact that it came against Chicago. "When you don't score 50, sometimes you get excited when you score goals."
He then admitted: "When you play your old team, you always want to play hard. It gives that little added boost. But at the end of the day, a goal feels good no matter who it's against."
But his impact didn't stop there. Just 18 seconds left, on the very same shift, Versteeg registered the primary assist on Milan Lucic's snipe past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, helping the Kings build a 2-0 lead where they never looked back.
"The second goal was really big," Versteeg said. "I know playing for the Hawks, once they get down, they get pretty loose and they can make a lot of plays when loose and playing free. They had a lot of the puck and a lot of the play after that, but we stuck to it and played our game and ended up winning."
"That was big for us," echoed Norris Trophy favorite Drew Doughty, who logged a game-high 26:06 minutes of ice time. "I think they got two on one shift, too, which is a pretty big deflator for their team. From that point on, you kind of could feel that we were going to win that game. They were getting opportunities and stuff like that, and they didn't give up, but we felt like we were in control from that point."
Despite being held pointless in his previous five games, his new teammates know what Versteeg, who's now been traded six times in his NHL career, brings to the table on and off the ice.
He already worked his way to the top line with Anze Kopitar and Versteeg, and it paid off on the first shift of the game.
"He's a guy, you can play him on any line," said Jonathan Quick, who set a new record for most shutouts by an American-born NHL goaltender with 41, following a 32-save performance. "He's very versatile and he knows how to win. He's played in a lot of big games and he's had success in those games, so he's a great addition to the team. You're happy to see him get one, especially against one of his old teams."
Vincent Lecavalier, who was also acquired midseason, Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli added the final three goals, which essentially slammed the door shut on the night.
The sold-out United Center crowd of 22,170 had seen enough after the fourth goal just past the midway mark of the third period, darting for the exits to beat traffic.
It's now the Blackhawks' third consecutive loss — their second in a row allowing five goals in a game — all against Western Conference contenders.
But that certainly doesn't mean opponents will sleep on the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
"Nobody's overlooking them," Quick said. "That's not even a question."
"They're a great team. They're the best team in the league," he added. "Them and Washington. We're familiar with them, they're familiar with us, we've played a lot against each other the past few years. It's a game where you don't need to (watch) much video or anything like that; you know what you're going to get. I think we caught a couple bounces, they hit a couple posts that could've gone the other way. We're fortunate to get a couple points."
The Kings and Blackhawks have combined to win the last four Stanley Cups, and clashed in the Conference Final in two of those years, both of whom got past the other en route to a Stanley Cup victory. It's always entertaining for both the fans and players when these two heavyweights meet.
And nobody will be surprised if there's a rubber match this spring.
In fact, it's welcomed.
"No. Hopefully we do," Doughty said when asked if he'd be surprised to see the Blackhawks again down the road. "If you ask me, I could see them coming out of their side all the way to the conference final and obviously that's what we'd want to do, too. There's a good chance we could meet up at some point, and if we do, it would be a fun series."