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Martinez is latest unexpected hero for the Kings

Tuesday, 06.05.2012 / 2:17 AM / Los Angeles Kings | News
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Martinez is latest unexpected hero for the Kings

By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- At the morning skate on Monday, Alec Martinez talked to one lone reporter at his locker stall while teammates conducted large media scrums near him.

It's nothing out of the ordinary.

There is no demand for Martinez, easily the most anonymous player in the Los Angeles Kings' lineup. Yet in a season defined by all-around contributions, it was appropriate that Martinez's first career playoff goal counted as the game-winner in their 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. It gave L.A. a 3-0 series lead, and the Kings can win their first Stanley Cup by taking Game 4 on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

A pinching Martinez followed Dwight King's second, third and fourth whacks and pushed the puck in across the goal line at 5:40 of the second period for a 1-0 lead. Somewhere in the group hug amid raised arms was a bright smile.

"I don't know if you saw the look on my face," Martinez said. "I was pretty excited. I was just happy we were able to get on the scoreboard."

The goal helped round out a Kings team that has mowed down opponents with depth on the offensive and defensive sides. Seventeen of 21 skaters have scored a goal for the Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The only Kings to have played in the postseason and not score are Rob Scuderi, Andrei Loktionov, Kyle Clifford and Simon Gagne, who has played in just one game.

Of all those players, Martinez wins the award for flying under the radar. As the defensive partner to Matt Greene on the third pair, Martinez is rarely written or talked about during the playoffs. Before this season he was told to change his jersey from No. 53 to No. 27, often a sign that a player has established himself.

But Martinez had a few bumps along the way.

A fourth-round pick in 2007, Martinez worked his way into former coach Terry Murray's defense-first system but lost his spot in the lineup when Darryl Sutter was hired. Sutter made Martinez a healthy scratch in 11 of 16 games in January and February.

Martinez persevered and is now seen as the third piece to the Kings' defensive playmaking triumvirate along with Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell.

"It was an up-and-down season for me," Martinez said. "It was tough. But when it came down to it, I had to be a better hockey player. I just tried to take it in stride. I worked with the coaches. They did a good job working with me and telling me what I needed to do better.

"Fortunately, I was able to get back in the lineup. I just want to do anything I could to help the team win. Obviously, that regular season seems a long time ago now."