When Marc Bergevin acquired King from Los Angeles at the trade deadline in March, the Habs' general manager was most interested in his postseason experience. Now in his seventh season in the NHL, the Meadow Lake, SK native is hoping to make memories in Montreal that are just as special as the ones he made in Hollywood.
Video: Dwight King's playoff memories
After spending most of the 2011-12 regular season with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, King was recalled by Los Angeles on February 11, 2012, helping his team punch a ticket to the playoffs as the Western Conference's eighth seed.
"We were fighting to get in right until the very end. The mentality of our team was to win every game for the last month [of the season]. The level and intensity of our play was already elevated. We had an older, veteran team, but the group hadn't succeeded in the prior playoffs. That was my first playoffs. We just went out there to win one game at a time," remembered King, who helped the Kings cap the campaign with a 11-4-3 record from the beginning of March to the end of the regular season.
King and the Kings knocked one major item off their To-Do list by earning a spot in the second season, but their work was far from over. As the No. 8 seed, LA was faced with a first-round match-up against the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks. Against all odds, Los Angeles took the series in five games.
That opening-series win was a sign of things to come for King and his teammates, who subsequently swept the Blues before disposing of the Coyotes in five games. Despite their lopsided win-loss record leading up to the Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils, King recalls that run as being anything but easy.
"It wears on guys physically. Staying mentally sharp, and being prepared are the biggest things," recounted King, who notched five goals and eight points in the 2011-12 playoffs. "Every team is going to deal with the nagging stuff. So as long as you're mentally there and committed to helping your team, I think that goes a long way."
Like they had done since the beginning of the playoffs, the Kings quickly set the pace, taking the first three games of the Finals, including two overtime wins in New Jersey. After watching their opponents chip away at their series lead, closing the gap to 3-2 after five games, the Kings sealed the deal at Staples Center in Game 6, handing the organization its first championship in its 45-year existence in the process. In doing so, they also became the first eighth-seed team in NHL history to raise the Cup.
"The first Cup was kind of a whirlwind. We didn't play a ton of games - we played 20, which is pretty low - but the excitement was there. Everybody was in the same boat. I think we only had one guy who had won before, so it was good emotions, it was cool," recalled King, who was 22 years when he captured his first Stanley Cup.
Returning from the NHL lockout the following year, the reigning champions enjoyed a strong playoff run but ultimately fell to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks, in five games in the Western Conference final.
King and the Kings were hungry to reclaim their spot atop the League in 2013-14, but came very close to missing out on the chance after the Sharks went ahead 3-0 in their first-round series. Contrary to what most may have believed, no one on that Los Angeles roster was discouraged by the immense challenge that lay ahead.
"You don't talk about it. You just stay in the moment. The coach did a great job of keeping us in the mentality of just being in the game. Our confidence slowly built, and you could see the opposite effect on the other team. Luckily enough, we won the seventh game quite easily," King explained of an LA team that became just the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series 4-3.
If the Kings' route to the 2012 Cup Final was a quick one, the opposite was true in 2014, as each of their playoff series that year went the full seven games - including their Conference final rematch against Chicago.
With a chance to eliminate the Hawks in five games, Chicago won both Games 5 and 6 to necessitate a rubbermatch - and that Game 7 needed overtime to decide a winner. This time, the Kings had the last word in that marathon of a series, one that captivated the attention of the hockey world from start to finish. But while Kings fans may have been biting their nails watching their team battle it out with the Blackhawks, the players themselves were calm throughout the storm.
"You're not thinking about that stuff. It's a little tiring when a series goes that long, but it wasn't stressful. If you get stressed about playing the game, then you'll probably be a little antsy on the ice. You just play your game. Depending on the time or the score you might play a little smarter, but you're still going out there to win the game," King underlined, having contributed two assists in that deciding game.
Facing the New York Rangers in the final round, the Kings took advantage right from the start, winning the first two contests in extra time. After swapping victories in the next two games, King and his teammates recorded their third overtime victory of the series - in the fifth period of play of the fifth game - to hand the Staples Centre faithful their second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
Although King may never forget the two times he lifted the silver chalice with his own hands, he admits that the second one stuck with him a bit more. The road to get there that year was a little more arduous, and he was better prepared to take in the magnitude of the moment.
"The first one was more shock, the second one you got to enjoy because you know the feeling. It was good. The second time was a little more surreal because I got to absorb it while it was happening, but they were both very special," concluded King, who would love to add a third ring to his collection this spring in Montreal.