The longest postseason for the Los Angeles Kings led into the longest game they had ever played. After 94 minutes of impossibly tense hockey, Alec Martinez could scarcely believe it when a rebound off Henrik Lundqvist’s pads came straight to his stick.
“After it went in, I think I blacked out,” Martinez said. “I’m just so happy for these guys.”
From their first elimination game seven weeks ago to Martinez’s championship-winning goal, these Kings were resilient, relentless and remarkable.
And now they have the Stanley Cup. Again.
Martinez scored 14:43 into the second overtime, and the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in Game 5 on Friday night.
Marian Gaborik scored a tying power-play goal in the third period for the Kings, who rallied from yet another deficit before finishing off the Rangers in the finals’ third overtime game at Staples Center.
Jonathan Quick made 28 saves and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams scored an early goal as Los Angeles added a second title to its 2012 championship, the first in the franchise’s 47-year history.
Long an NHL afterthought in their warm-weather city, the Kings have turned into a burgeoning dynasty — and they’ve turned Hollywood into a hockey town with two titles, capped by this glamorous finish.
“We have a team that simply will not be denied,” said Williams, a three-time Cup champion after scoring 25 points. “Every Cup is special. What we went through in 2012 (versus) what we went through this year, huge difference, and we really earned it.”
After innumerable chances for both teams in two nail-biting extra periods, Martinez started the final rush with a pass to Kyle Clifford, who dropped it to Tyler Toffoli for a shot. The rebound went straight to Martinez, and the depth defenseman buried it for his fifth goal of the postseason.
Martinez is becoming a late-game playoff legend after also scoring in overtime in Game 7 against Chicago in the Western Conference finals, but the Kings all see themselves as part of something bigger.
“I don’t know if we’re part of (a dynasty) yet, but hopefully we’re on our way to that,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “I believe this group could be at that point, but it’s going to take a lot of work.”
The Kings rocketed off the bench and gathered for a huge group hug near the Rangers’ net before the handshake line and the Stanley Cup ceremony featuring captain Dustin Brown’s second chance to take the 35-pound silver trophy from Commissioner Gary Bettman.
While his players went crazy, coach Darryl Sutter nonchalantly walked onto the ice with almost no celebration of his second title. He wore a broad grin when he raised the Cup above his head several minutes later.
Brown swiftly handed the Cup to Robyn Regehr, the veteran defenseman and first-time NHL champion who never got back in the Kings’ lineup after his May 3 knee injury. Regehr handed it to Gaborik, the goal-scoring dynamo and late-season acquisition who led the playoffs with 14 goals to win the first title of his 13-season NHL career.
The trophy soon went to Doughty and Jeff Carter, who became the seventh and eighth players to win an Olympic gold medal and the Stanley Cup in the same year. Leading scorer Anze Kopitar raised it for the second time, and Quick gave a triumphant shout after his turn.
Chris Kreider scored a power-play goal and Brian Boyle added a tiebreaking short-handed goal late in the second period for the Rangers, who showed no nerves while facing elimination for the sixth time this spring.
Both teams had tantalizing chances in overtime, from shots off posts by Ryan McDonagh and Toffoli to Kreider’s failed breakaway late in the first OT. Rick Nash had an open net in the second OT, but Slava Voynov deflected the shot just high with the shaft of his stick.
Lundqvist stopped 48 shots in another standout performance for the Eastern Conference champions, but the Rangers repeatedly came up one goal short against the Kings despite their goalie’s brilliance.
“You go into this hoping that you don’t regret anything,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We put it out there. We gave our best shot, best effort. Three games here all went to OT. What can I say?”
Los Angeles’ 2012 title run was defined by that raw, eighth-seeded team’s improbable dominance, but the second crown was all about resilience for the third-place team in the Pacific Division.
After fighting through three straight seven-game series to emerge from the tough Western Conference, the Kings won the first three games of the finals, starting with consecutive OT wins on goals by Williams and Brown.
Game 5 was the Kings’ 26th playoff game of the spring, matching the NHL record for the longest postseason run. Los Angeles has played 64 playoff games over the last three years, setting another league record.
“This time around, we didn’t have time to think about `My God, we’ve been playing elimination games so many times,” defenseman Willie Mitchell said. “I guess that’s probably the difference, that we were on the brink so many times playing really good teams. So that’s pretty cool.”
The Kings raised the Stanley Cup just over seven weeks after they faced a 3-0 first-round series deficit against San Jose. Los Angeles confidently won four straight elimination games to become the fourth team in NHL history to rally from that deficit, and then won two more elimination games in a second-round series against Anaheim.
The defending champion Blackhawks forced Los Angeles to a seventh game in Chicago, but Martinez’s deflected overtime goal sent the Kings into the franchise’s third Stanley Cup finals.
After three straight wins, New York staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
Staples Center was packed well before the opening faceoff with fans eager for another celebration, rocking the arena with chants of “Go Kings Go!” while both teams were still in their dressing rooms.
Los Angeles started out with yet another big-game score from Williams. He got his ninth goal of the postseason on a loose puck after linemates Dwight King and Jarret Stoll applied pressure on Lundqvist.
The Rangers finally equalized when McDonagh found Kreider in front. Boyle then got a stunner after Carl Hagelin got the puck away from Voynov, skating around Doughty and wiring a pinpoint shot into the far top corner.
But the Kings showed the same determination that has characterized their entire spring run, and they finally equalized with Mats Zuccarello in the box.
Doughty’s long shot hit Lundqvist in the chest and dropped in front of him before Gaborik alertly poked it between his legs for the Slovak star’s latest goal in a spectacular postseason with his new club.
That’s when the nail-biting hockey started — and roughly 46 minutes later, Martinez drove in the final nail.
The Kings are the only team in the last seven seasons to win the Cup at home, and they’ve done it twice. … Both teams kept the same lineups from Game 4. Sutter never put Regehr back in the lineup, unwilling to break up a successful lineup. … The Kings never led in their two overtime victories at home earlier in the series. … The 1987 Philadelphia Flyers and the 2004 Calgary Flames also played 26 postseason games, but neither won the Cup.
SOURCE: The Associated Press