Kings' road to second Cup much harder than 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Two years ago, when Dustin Brown became the first member of the Los Angeles Kings to lift the Stanley Cup, it capped one of the most improbable championship marches in NHL history.
There were questions in the aftermath, like, "How did they do this?" and, "Where did this come from?" The Kings, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, rampaged to the Cup, winning the first three games of every series and losing only four times in 20 games.
When Brown lifted the Cup above his head Friday at Staples Center for the second time in three seasons, it was the punctuation of an even more remarkable postseason journey.
"This is the most challenging year we've had," Brown said after the Kings' 3-2 double-overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final made them champions again. "The way we played in the playoffs. We made history the first time one way and we made it another way. This is hard to put into words really."
Where to start, really, with all of the NHL records this franchise has accumulated in the past two months?
This Kings team was down 3-0 in the first round to the San Jose Sharks. Its Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goaltender had allowed 16 goals and stopped less than 86 percent of the shots he had faced.
Not only did the Kings become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit and win a series, they did it in such emphatic fashion they've caused their top rival and a team built to compete with them to reconsider how its roster is constructed this offseason.
This Los Angeles team was down 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and was reeling from a second three-game losing streak in as many rounds. The Kings survived Game 6 on a fluky goal by Trevor Lewis, but then left no doubt about who were the "Kings of California" when they crushed the Ducks in Game 7.
Anaheim had 116 points this season, the most in franchise history. The Ducks, like the Sharks, will spend the summer trying to figure out how to catch the Kings.
This team was facing the prospect of a third three-game losing streak when it took the ice for a third Game 7 away from Staples Center in the Western Conference Final. The Kings had to go to the home of the defending Stanley Cup champions and try to end the Chicago Blackhawks' reign, just as they had done to the Kings the year before.
The Kings were the first team to play 21 games and reach the Stanley Cup Final. They were the first time to win three Game 7s on the road.
All that was left was solving the best goaltender in the world. Henrik Lundqvist kept the New York Rangers from being swept in the Stanley Cup Final and he nearly pushed the series to six games before Alec Martinez's rebound shot in the second overtime set off a celebration.
"We have a belief within our room that we're not going to be denied and we have what it takes," Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams said. "The confidence within our room ... there's no doubt right now."
The Kings became the first team in NHL history to play 26 playoff games and win the Cup. They faced elimination and won seven times, the most by any Stanley Cup champion.
They became the first time since 1987 to win four times in a postseason in games they trailed by two goals. They became the first team in Stanley Cup Playoffs history to win three straight games when rallying from two-goal deficits.
To complete the journey, the Kings needed more of everything they've been about this postseason. They trailed at the second intermission, but rallied to win for a League-leading fourth time.
They leaned on the Rangers, pouring pucks in Lundqvist's direction.
"We kept believing," center Anze Kopitar said. "We kept doing our thing. It worked out for us."
At one point this season, the Kings were one of the unluckiest teams in the NHL. They had lost several games despite drastically outshooting their opponent, and the team's shooting percentage was among the worst in the League.
Just as happened two years ago, this season started to turn just before the NHL Trade Deadline. Play resumed after the Olympic break, and the pucks started to go in.
General manager Dean Lombardi made a big trade, and newcomer Marian Gaborik became the NHL's leading goal-scorer in this postseason. Lombardi's big addition in 2012, Jeff Carter, moved to center and became a dominant force between a pair of kids, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, after coach Darryl Sutter put them together after falling behind in the San Jose series.
This is the deepest roster in the League, and Martinez, a third-pairing defenseman, put the finishing touches on an incredible journey with his second straight series-clinching overtime goal.
"I think it takes a lot of effort and will," Sutter said. "But I think once you did it as a group, the nucleus of your team, I've said it lots and we talk about it lots in the room, the winning and losing part of it. It sounds off the wall, but a lot of times when you lose a game, you're actually winning in a lot of other areas and you just believe in it.
"It showed up again [Friday night]. I mean, just over and over and over, went through it. We had to switch guys around [and] just started gutting it out."
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer