It took the Los Angeles Kings 45 years to win their first Stanley Cup. But when they did, they won with a flourish.
The Kings completed their run to the Stanley Cup on Monday night by routing New Jersey 6-1 in Game 6 of the Final, capping a postseason in which they went 16-4. That leaves L.A. in a four-way tie for the fewest games needed to win the Cup since 1987, when the NHL adopted a best-of-seven format for all rounds of the playoffs.
It is kind of surreal. It is kind of crazy. It hasn't really sunk in yet. It is something special. Those were some of my first thoughts after realizing that we won the Stanley Cup.
I was fortunate enough to win the Stanley Cup once before with Chicago, but I didn't play in the Final. This time around, to play a role and play in every game, it really means a lot.
We lost two games in a row, but we thought we had played some good hockey. Not so much in Game 4, but in Game 5 we definitely felt we deserved a better fate. They had two lucky bounces against us. Heading into this game, we had decided we were going to play much in the same way, play hard and score the first goal.
Our power play really won the game for us. Not only getting one on a major penalty, but to get three and build us a nice comfortable lead was nice. That being said, we didn't sit back.
Not only did the Los Angeles Kings win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, they found a way to do it that no team had ever done before.
L.A.'s 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night gave the Kings their first championship since entering the NHL in 1967. The Kings became the first team ever to win the first three games of the Final, lose the next two and take the Cup by winning Game 6. Of the previous 25 teams to take a 3-0 lead, 20 finished off the sweep, three needed five games to win, the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs won in seven and the 1942 Detroit Red Wings lost in seven -- the only time that's happened in the Final.
The Kings also became the lowest-seeded team to take home the Cup -- they were 13th in the overall standings during the regular season. Before this year, the lowest-seeded team to win it all was the 1995 Devils, who were ninth -- just as they were this season. L.A. also became the first No. 8 seed to win the Cup since the current format was adopted in 1994.
Los Angeles became the first team since 2007 to win the Cup at home -- the Anaheim Ducks did it five years ago by beating Ottawa -- and ended a four-game losing streak by teams that had a chance to win the Cup in front of their own fans.
There are no two ways around it. After finally defeating the Devils in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Kings, at long last, are champions -- and for the city of L.A., as someone who knows what it's like to live and coach there, that's just a great thing. It's always great any time you do something for the first time and this franchise has been in the League since 1967, so it's a great reward for the city to finally get one after 45 years.
For fans of those teams, though, seeing the Kings finally win it all after 45 years is proof that no matter the wait, it can happen. If L.A. can win it, Minnesota can do it. St. Louis can do it. All of those teams can do it, and what's more important is the Kings have done it the right way. They've traded well, they've built through the draft and groomed their prospects well. They've made the right moves in the front office, too and it's all paid off -- and it can all pay off for those other teams, too.
LOS ANGELES --Peter DeBoer and the Devils don't feel the situation they're in now is any different than the one they were in the last time they prepared for a game at Staples Center last week.
"I think it's the same feeling as when we were down 3-0," DeBoer said. "I think the hockey world pretty much wrote us off, and I think we feel we've played with no pressure because of that. I don't think that has changed because all of a sudden it is 3-2 now."
What has changed is the Devils confidence, which naturally rises after winning a couple of games in a row, especially against an opponent that seemed invincible before finally being cracked.
They say they're not overconfident heading into Game 6 Monday, but certainly it is something to watch out for.
"Now we won a couple of games we know that obviously we can beat these guys, and that can be very dangerous," Patrik Elias said. "This is the time when we have to take a step back, relax and again, just play the same way. We just gotta make sure that we're playing within our structure, that we don't get too worked up. This is going to be the toughest one."
Devils captain Zach Parise said his sense is that the team is loose, energetic and maybe even a little bit relaxed now that it has two wins under its belt in the Stanley Cup Final. He can say all the same things about himself as well now that he finally scored a goal in Game 5 for his first point of the series.
"When you work and work and you're doing the right things and you're not getting the results, it does get frustrating," Parise said. "It starts to build up, and then when you're able to break through and win a couple of games, that does a lot for the psyche of the team."
However, Parise added that the still dire predicament of having to win or watch the Kings parade around with the Stanley Cup is enough to keep the Devils grounded before Game 6.
"We still know how great of a team they are and how much better we still need to play to make this thing go further," he said. "We're still in a really tough spot having to win a road Game 6 to extend this thing."
The Devils will stick with the same lineup that worked in Games 4 and 5. Here are the likely line combinations and defense pairs:
LOS ANGELES -- The New Jersey Devils will try to stave off elimination for the fifth time this postseason in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Each time they have been in this spot, including twice against Florida and twice against the Kings, they feel they have responded because they have been able to raise their game and properly handle the adversity.
"Every time everybody has stepped up and brought their best," Devils rookie Adam Henrique said. "In every single one of those games everybody has stepped up their play."
They'll all have to do it again Wednesday at Staples Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) or the Stanley Cup will be awarded to the Los Angeles Kings.
"That's gut-check time," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "There are clues during the year. At different points you get those pressure points in the season, a must-win, a big game to end a losing streak, to see how your team responds. Until you're actually facing the fact of going home for the summer unless you win, you're not really sure how you're going to respond."
The Devils have responded with two overtime wins against Florida after falling behind 3-2, and two tight wins over the Kings after losing the first three games of the Cup Final.
Devils captain Zach Parise credits the coaching staff for preparing the team for these difficult elimination situations, but he also said there is an element to this team that enables it to thrive through adversity.
Martin Brodeur has a 1.33 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in games when New Jersey is facing elimination.
"Our team must just play well when we're in a pressure situation, and I think that starts with our goaltending," Parise said. "You've got a person that has played in bigger games than any of us have ever played in and he has that sense of calmness back there and is making big saves when we need it. When we've had to play well we've done it for whatever reason."
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Barring any last-minute changes like the one Peter DeBoer made before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils will stick with the same lineup for Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.
The Devils' line combinations and defense pairings remained unchanged during Sunday's practice at Toyota Sports Center. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who convinced DeBoer to let him play in Game 4 and has been excellent in his two games, was again paired with Marek Zidlicky. Forward Petr Sykora wasn't great in Game 5, but he was still on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus.
The Devils will not have a morning skate before Game 6, instead only having media availability at their team hotel. Unless someone follows in the footsteps of Tallinder and makes a passionate case to play, here's what the Devils' lineup will be as the Kings hold a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Patrik Elias flew across the country Sunday afternoon as the Devils prepared to play the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at Staples Center, which could be considered his second long-distance flight in less than 24 hours.
That's because Kings defenseman Matt Greene sent Elias flying during Game 5 on Saturday night.
Elias was carrying the puck down the left side on a 2-on-1 midway through the first period and tried to slide a pass to Dainius Zubrus. The puck missed its target, but Greene did not. He crushed Elias to the ice and into the end boards, leaving the Devils' center in a heap on the ice for several minutes.
"Yeah, I got hit," Elias said. "I went pretty hard into the boards, but I'm OK."
Saturday night was obviously not the result that we wanted. You want to close them out as quickly as you can, but that being said there is a fine line between winning and losing in this series.
We felt good about our start, and felt really good about the whole first period. We found ourselves down one goal, though. If you look at Games 1 and 2, they could have gone either way. Now the same can be said for Games 4 and 5. There is a fine line, and we've got to find a way to get back above it again.
During the first intermission we talked about staying positive and that it was a good period, but we obviously weren't where we wanted to be. You try to reinforce doing some of the same stuff and sticking with the program for 60 minutes -- the system and everything.
We've made it this far for a reason. We're a good hockey team, and we have to stick with what works and not get out of our comfort zone. That said, they are a good defensive team with a good goalie. It is hard to generate chances against them.
When the Kings took a 3-0 lead, this series looked like it was over. When the Devils won Game 4 to make it 3-1, it looked like they had saved some face but the Kings were still due for a date with the Cup. Now that the Devils have won two games in a row (something no one else has done against the Kings this postseason), however, we have a Game 6 Monday night in L.A.
If New Jersey wins that one, suddenly we've got a winner-take-all Game 7 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night. All of this begs one simple question.
Can the Devils actually do this?
The first three games of the Stanley Cup Final this year just seemed like more of the same for L.A.'s postseason. Whenever the Kings have needed a big goal or a big save or a big penalty kill, they always got it. In Games 4 and 5, however, it's started to roll the other way. Now the Devils are starting to get the breaks and one has to wonder if they're starting to feel what the Kings felt at the start of the series.
You get the right the whistles at the right times, you can leave him out there. He's a beast when it comes to being on the ice. I thought [Saturday] he was a big man. That first period, he did that lateral cut and it was like three bowling pins bounced off him. There's not too many guys that can do that.
— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on Alex Ovechkin, who enters February tied for the NHL lead in goals