"It's a tough hill," Sutter said, "and we won't go quietly away, that's for sure."
They didn't go away at all. They rallied and won the next four games and the series, setting a tone for a playoff journey that was as nerve-racking as it was unique.
After fighting off elimination seven times in three rounds, the Kings on Friday won the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the
"We've been down a lot this postseason, we've been up, been in some exciting games, some long games," center
"We just keep playing, trying to find a way to win."
This is a strange, new world for hockey fans, one in which the Kings — a symbol of
"I think people can look at us a little differently now that we've done what we've done in the last couple years," said defenseman
What they did this spring was astounding. It was also in distinct contrast with two years ago, when they cruised to the championship with only four losses in four rounds.
After being pushed to the brink by San Jose, the Kings won the first two games of their second-round series against the top-seeded
"It's in this room. We don't look outside too much. We believe in this room, and that's the most important thing," said center
"We trust in each other, and when you throw a little desperation and urgency on top of it, we're playing pretty good hockey."
They needed better than good against the defending Cup champion
The Kings' resilience won out again. Winger
Resilience became their trademark through the Cup Final. They fell behind by two goals in each of the first two games but won the opener, 3-2, and took a 5-4, double-overtime victory in Game 3 when defenseman
The Kings reinvented themselves throughout their postseason ride. After ranking 26th among 30 teams in scoring during the regular season, they became a scoring machine in postseason play, led by Kopitar's league-leading 26 points and Gaborik's league-best 14 goals. The 11 goals the Kings scored in the first three games of the Cup Final came from 11 players, the ultimate balanced offense.
Spreading out their scoring helped them survive. If one player or one line was slumping, someone else picked up the slack.
None of this would have been possible without the deft moves made by Sutter, the gruff-voiced Alberta farmer whose brusque manner didn't hide his respect for his players. When the Kings hired him in December 2011, they were in danger of missing the playoffs. He led that group to the Cup as the No. 8 seed. Now, with the same core players and several upgrades up front, he and the Kings have two titles.
"I think we've grown a ton," defenseman
Acquiring Gaborik through a trade in March was a pivotal move. He had instant chemistry with Kopitar and gave the Kings a scoring threat on left wing, which they had lacked for a long time.
When Mitchell and fellow defenseman
When Sutter wanted to balance the team's scoring and build strength down the middle, he put youngsters Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli on either side of center
And when Sutter wanted to win those three Game 7s, he simply turned to right wing
"He wants to compete so hard, so bad," Greene said of Williams, who won a championship in Carolina in 2006 before being traded to the Kings in March 2009.
"The bigger the games get, he's always showing up, making the big play."
The same was true of the Kings, no longer doormats but champions of the NHL.