Kings Rout Devils 6-1 to Win First Cup
LOS ANGELES -- This is a city of glitz and glamor, so the pregame video just before the Los Angeles Kings have taken the ice at Staples Center during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs appropriately is accompanied by multicolored spotlights, a laser show and images projected onto the playing surface.
The heart of the video, though, goes to the soul of this sport. There are pictures of the Kings in their youth, boys wearing over-sized hockey equipment who dreamed of reaching the pinnacle of the sport they loved.
The boys in those faded photos arrived there Monday night.
Los Angeles, on the strength of three power-play goals in the first period, finished off the New Jersey Devils with a 6-1 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, earning the franchise's first championship in its 45-year history.
"They've been waiting longer than I have, this city," captain Dustin Brown said. "You dream of winning the Cup, and you know what, I'm glad I was the first King to ever lift it."
The victory caps one of the most remarkable postseason runs in League history. Los Angeles was in 11th place in the Western Conference with 14 games remaining in the regular season, and the Kings didn't earn a spot in the postseason until during Game No. 81.
From that point, the Kings were nearly unstoppable. Los Angeles became the first No. 8 seed to win the Cup, the first team to defeat the top three teams in its conference and the first team with any seed to win the first three games of all four series, including the first two on the road in each round.
"I don't know, I can't even describe it," veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell, who at 35 years old the eldest of the Kings, said after winning the Cup for the first time. "Everyone played road hockey as a kid. We had a green garbage can that everyone would go around and pose with it.
"We just did it for real, baby. This is awesome. ... It has been a good journey. We faced a lot of adversity this year, but we found a way to dig ourselves out the hole and get to this point. It is pretty unique."
The Devils proved to be the Kings' toughest foe, staving off elimination twice before finally succumbing Monday night at Staples Center. New Jersey also had a pretty incredible postseason run, knocking off coach Peter DeBoer's old team, the Florida Panthers, before vanquishing division rivals Philadelphia and the New York Rangers en route to the franchise's fifth Eastern Conference title since 1995.
New Jersey missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010-11 for the first time in 14 seasons, as the Devils finished in fourth place in the Atlantic Division. But Martin Brodeur played better in this postseason than he has in several springs, and the Devils advanced past the second round for the first time since last winning the Cup in 2003.
"I'm proud of our group," DeBoer said. "You know, you put some men together and you play 110 games I think we played, on the ice every day, I couldn't be prouder of them as a group."
A year ago Tim Thomas capped one of the best postseasons in League history by a goaltender by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. All Quick did was author a better run one year later. He finished the 2012 playoffs with a 16-4 record, a .946 save percentage and a 1.41 goals against average to earn the playoff MVP award.
Four of the first five games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final were incredibly close. Game 6 changed dramatically on one play. Steve Bernier hit defenseman Rob Scuderi behind the Kings' net and was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 10:10.
Bernier was given a major penalty because of the severity of the violence on the boarding infraction. Once a major is assessed, Rule 41.5 states that if the penalty results in an injury to the face or head (Scuderi was bleeding), then it is an automatic game misconduct.
Brown opened the scoring at 11:03 of the first on a tip-in when Drew Doughty sent the puck toward the slot. Jeff Carter deflected Brown's shot from the slot past Brodeur at 12:45 to make it 2-0. Trevor Lewis made it 3-0 in the final seconds of the power play when he put in the rebound of a Dwight King shot at 15:01.
The Kings had just six power-play goals in the first three rounds of the playoffs; they matched that total in six games against the NHL's top penalty-killing team during the regular season.
"It was huge," center Anze Kopitar said of the three goals on Bernier's penalty. "The way the game started for us was unbelievable. [Brown] is our leader and our captain. You can't ask for more than he brought tonight."
Carter scored his second of the night and eighth of the postseason 90 seconds into the second period to push the lead to four goals. Brown carried the puck into the zone, and Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov collided with linesman Pierre Racicot while trying to stay with him. The Kings' captain eventually got the puck to Carter for a high shot from just beyond the hash marks that beat Brodeur.
Adam Henrique got the Devils on the board with 73 seconds left in the second period. He put in the rebound of a Petr Sykora shot for his fifth of the postseason. Lewis, into an empty net, and defenseman Matt Greene added late tallies for the Kings.
Brown became the first player in a Kings sweater to lift the Cup, and the first American since Derian Hatcher in 1999 to receive it from Commissioner Gary Bettman. He scored the big goals early in this postseason, and his crunching body checks of Henrik Sedin and Michal Rozsival proved to be defining moments in two series en route to the Final.
There was once a lineage of great Los Angeles centers, from Marcel Dionne to Bernie Nicholls to Wayne Gretzky -- who was at center ice before Game 3. Kopitar has rekindled that tradition, and his spectacular postseason affirmed his place among the League's elite, complete players. He was responsible for several of the signature goals during this run, from a remarkable shorthanded tally against St. Louis, to an overtime breakaway in Game 1 of the Final and a perfect finish from Brown in Game 3.
"This is unreal. Every single emotion in me is coming out," Kopitar said. "The biggest thing has been the belief inside the locker room. We had 25 guys believing in one thing. I can't be more proud of the guys."
Brown and Kopitar finished tied for the League lead in this postseason in goals (eight, along with five other players) and points (20).
The Devils had matched an NHL record by avoiding elimination four times in this postseason, including twice in this series, but their inability to solve Quick, more than anything, was their undoing. He allowed only seven goals [the Devils also scored an empty-netter] in the six games.
"Obviously, Darryl [Sutter] came in [December] and I felt like everybody felt a little more accountable for their own actions, their day-to-day play, practice, everything," Quick said with the Conn Smythe Trophy sitting next to him.
"Obviously at the end of the day, you know, no matter what, it's got to come from the room and guys have to make a decision to work. I think we did that. You can't say enough about this group and how hard they worked."