Los Angeles Kings’ captain Dustin Brown hoists the Stanley Cup after the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in Los Angeles Monday night. The Kings took the best-of-seven series 4-2 to claim their first-ever NHL championship. — Photo by The Associated Press
It was worth the wait. After 45 long years, including two near-misses in the last week, the Los Angeles Kings have finally been crowned Stanley Cup champions. The party kicked off before the first period even ended Monday as Los Angeles romped to a 6-1 series-clinching victory over the stunned New Jersey Devils.
The game turned on a penalty that should immediately erase Marty McSorley’s 1993 illegal stick call as the most memorable in Kings history. Devils forward Steve Bernier was given a five-minute major for boarding just over 10 minutes into the game after bloodying Rob Scuderi with a hard hit from behind, and Los Angeles made him pay.
First captain Dustin Brown got a puck behind Martin Brodeur. Then Jeff Carter followed. By the time Trevor Lewis made it 3-0 at 15:01, the Staples Center crowd knew the Kings had all the goals they needed.
After all, Jonathan Quick didn’t allow more than that in any game during a dominant 16-4 run through this post-season. The Kings goaltender was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for his dominant performance in the Kings’ goal.
Quick didn’t face a lot of shots in Game 6. His toughest task was staying composed as the score went up.
“As much as you keep pushing it out of your mind it’ll creep back in,” he said. “Especially you get that four-goal lead and it’s hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit. But you keep reminding yourself how dangerous of a team they are, and the second you become relaxed and get your mind off what you’re supposed to be doing that’s when they’ll take advantage of you.”
The Devils were the first team since 1945 to even force a Game 6 in the Stanley Cup final after trailing 3-0 in the series, and the clincher highlighted why the task of coming all the way back is so daunting. There’s no room for bad bounces or bad luck.
New Jersey was it where it wanted to be after weathering an early storm and killing off a minor penalty. And then Bernier crashed into Scuderi. The most difficult part of that penalty for the Devils was the fact it came just seconds after Jarrett Stoll had hit Stephen Gionta from behind without a call.
The Devils were shaken and their hopes of forcing a Game 7 were soon shattered. It’s extremely rare to see a team score three times on a major penalty, especially against a New Jersey penalty kill that was the NHL’s best in the regular season at 89.6 per cent. They couldn’t maintain that level in the playoffs.
“You know what, tonight is about L.A. and letting them celebrate,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked about the Bernier penalty. “If you want to ask me about that in about a week, I’ll give you my honest opinion on it.”
Carter added another goal in the second period while Adam Henrique got the Devils on the board just over a minute before the intermission. However, there was no doubting the outcome as the final 20 minutes ticked away and resignation started to settle in on the New Jersey bench.
“It’s pretty awesome obviously when you have a three or four goal lead with five minutes left and you know what these guys are capable of doing, then you start seeing it on the bench,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “It’s the feeling ... seeing them so happy and the work that you go through.
“You know the first thing you think about is the coach? These guys are all young enough ... they’ve got to try it again.”
As the big moment approached, the crowd alternated between derisive chants of “Maaaaarrrtty!” and “We want the Cup!”
And the roar built steadily as the scoreboard neared zero. The roof nearly came off when Lewis hit an empty net at 16:15 and Matt Greene beat Brodeur over the glove just 15 seconds later.
All that was left was for Brown to take centre stage.
When the captain finally accepted the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman and hoisted it in the air, it provided a fitting scene — he was one of the young players the Kings decided to build around when they were mired in a stretch of eight straight years out of the playoffs from 2002 to 2009.
After all, general manager Dean Lombardi sold long-suffering fans on the idea of a complete rebuild when he was hired in 2006 and had this kind of night in mind. There were plenty of days where it seemed like it would never happen.
The trade for Mike Richards last summer, the decision to replace coach Terry Murray with Sutter in December and the acquisition of Carter at the trade deadline was enough to put the Kings over the top. After finishing as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, they found another level during a spring that won’t soon be forgotten in Southern California.
Staples Center was the place to be in Los Angeles once again this June — and this time it wasn’t because of the Lakers. David Beckham, Larry David and Matthew Perry were among the slew of famous faces among the towel-waving crowd, not to mention a long list of Kings alumni.