LOS ANGELES – Hooray for Hockeywood.
The Los Angeles Kings’ 45-year quest for an NHL title ended Monday night with an early flurry of power-play goals, followed by two periods of unbearable anticipation — right up to the moment when Dustin Brown snatched the Stanley Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Brown skated to center ice and thrust the 36-pound silver trophy skyward, the captain never flinching under the weight. Long-suffering L.A. fans, who had never even seen hockey’s greatest prize, went crazy.
The Kings are NHL champions for the first time, and all the men in black played a role in this Tinseltown blockbuster.
Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored two goals apiece, playoff MVP Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in his latest stellar performance, and the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the finals, becoming the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the league title.
Brown had a goal and two assists for Los Angeles, which ended its spectacular 16-4 postseason run in front of a crowd including several dozen Kings faithful who have been at rinkside since the team’s birth as an expansion franchise in 1967. Every other year ended unhappily.
“Every single guy worked so hard for us this season,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who began the year as a contract holdout and finished with six points in the finals, including two assists in the clincher. “Everyone deserves this. We got used to each other, we developed a chemistry, and we just went sailing from there.”
After taking a 3-0 series lead and then losing two potential clinching games last week, the Kings finished ferociously at Staples Center just when the sixth-seeded Devils appeared to have a chance for one of the biggest comebacks in finals history.
One penalty abruptly changed the tone of the series. Brown, Carter and Lewis scored during a five-minute power play in the first period after Steve Bernier was ejected for boarding Rob Scuderi, leaving the veteran defenseman in a pool of blood. Quick took it from there, finishing a star-making two months by allowing just seven goals in six finals games.
“You never know. You get to the dance, you never know what’s going to happen,” Brown said. “We calmed down after losing two. It was the first time we had done that all playoffs, and we finally got off to a good start.”
Martin Brodeur stopped 19 shots for the Eastern Conference champion Devils, just the third team to force a Game 6 in the finals after falling into an 0-3 hole. Rookie Adam Henrique ended Quick’s shutout bid late in the second period after the Kings had built a 4-0 lead, but Lewis and Matt Greene added late goals for the Kings.
“We never lost our confidence,” Quick said. “We had to take it on the chin to keep moving, losing two, and we looked at it as, ‘Hey, we still have to win one game to win a championship. And we have two chances.’ Finally, we were able to do it at home.”
The Kings steamrolled everyone in their path after barely making the playoffs, eliminating the top three seeds in the Western Conference in overwhelming fashion as they matched the second-fastest run to a title in modern NHL history. Although the Devils gave them a little trouble, the Kings boasted a talented, balanced roster that peaked at the absolute perfect time under midseason coaching hire Darryl Sutter.
Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy, adding one more dominant game to a run in which he set NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Brown capped his own impressive playoff work by finishing with 20 points, tied for the postseason scoring lead with linemate Anze Kopitar.
And Brown, just the second American-born captain to raise the Cup after Dallas’ Derian Hatcher, accomplished what even Wayne Gretzky couldn’t do in eight years in Los Angeles.