LOS ANGELES – Dustin Brown took his 5-year-old son, Mason, off his shoulders, where he had enjoyed a twirl around the Staples Center ice, then leaned in for a quick chat with his 6-year-old son, Jake.
“Yes, there’s a party, but you can’t come,” Brown said, then leaned in for another inquiry and said, “When you wake up in the morning, the Cup will be there.”
And what a statement that is, not only to the young Browns but to all Kings fans. The Kings are the champions again. Not that they made it easy. After a postseason of strife, the Kings won the Stanley Cup on Friday night with a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 5 at Staples Center.
Alec Martinez scored, with 5:17 remaining in the second overtime, off a close-range rebound.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” Martinez said during the on-ice celebration. “I haven’t been married or had kids yet, but this is the best feeling in the world.”
The NHL is once again a monarchy, ruled by the Kings, and a few years ago, who would have guessed?
In their initial 44 years of existence, the Kings tortured their fans. Rarely were they awful. Often, they were just good enough to inspire hope, but never good enough to fulfill it. So much has changed in 24 months.
The Kings won the Cup in 2012, with a rollicking 16-4 run that saw them take a 3-0 lead in each series. It was easy, almost too easy. This time, they earned the championship, and then some.
“I don’t know if we will ever see this again,” said Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations. “It’s absolutely incredible. It’s the best thing we’ve ever seen in sports.”
The Kings became the first team since Detroit in 1950 to win the Stanley Cup at home in double overtime. They led 1-0 in the first period, trailed 2-1 after two periods and tied the game on Marian Gaborik’s third-period goal.
After an exhausting first overtime, and a series of shots that hit goalposts, the Kings finally pulled it off. Tyler Toffoli’s shot hit Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, but Martinez, a defenseman, pinched down from the blue line and knocked in the rebound to send the crowd of 18,713 into wild celebration.
It was the longest game in Kings history, at 94 minutes, 43 seconds, and the ending was worth the wait.
“There are no words for what we went through this year,” said winger Justin Williams, who scored the first-period goal and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. “We have a team that just simply wasn’t going to be denied. End of story. I saw a team that did not want to go back to New York.”
They called themselves cockroaches, these Kings, this resilient team that, for much of these playoffs, seemed determined to do everything the hard way. The Kings trailed 3-0 against the Sharks and 3-2 against the Ducks, then nearly blew a 3-1 series lead against Chicago in the conference finals.
Never did their confidence wane. After Game 3 against the Sharks, when the Kings had – per historic odds – a 1.7 percent chance to advance, Coach Darryl Sutter promised that the team “wouldn’t go quietly.”