Of all the rigorous tests the Kings had to pass to get to the Stanley Cup Final, the final exam was
getting a winning shot past the New York Rangers’ highly skilled and determined goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, who was 11-2 in elimination playoff games since 2012 before Friday’s decisive Game 5 at Staples Center, beat the Kings in Game 4 with 40 saves.
He took it personally that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick bested him at Madison Square Garden on Monday night with a 32-save Game 3 shutout, and vowed to be the better man.
“When you go out to these types of games where you know everything can be over after this period or after the next two periods. ... You try even harder to be focused and making the right decisions out there,” Lundqvist said after his Game 4 victory. “It's exciting, though. It's extremely tough, but
it's fun, especially when it's that intense out there, a lot of action.”
Lundqvist, nicknamed "King," embraced great drama, going 5-0 in elimination games before Friday this postseason — and that’s a large part of what made Game 5 so riveting.
He had a 2-1 lead in the third period before a pivotal showdown with NHL playoff goals leader Marian Gaborik, who wouldn’t be denied in pushing a shot – somehow, someway – under the goalie 7 minutes, 56 seconds into the emotional battle.
After that, Lundqvist and Quick exchanged big saves as the game moved to double overtime.
While Quick needed 18 saves and withstood two penalty kills in the extra sessions, Lundqvist saved 21 shots in the final two periods and was up to 48 total saves as the game reached its conclusion.
“He’s one of the best goalies in the world,” Kings forward Tyler Toffoli said after his line with center Jeff Carter and forward Tanner Pearson had 12 shots stopped. “We just kept shooting, shooting and shooting. Finally, I got one off his pad and [Alec Martinez] put it in.”
In the longest game in Kings history, 14:43 into the second overtime, it took that Toffoli shot from Lundqvist’s left that went ungloved and bounced to Lundqvist’s right, where Kings defenseman Martinez was positioned to slam the Cup-winner into, of course, a long-awaited vacant
“It just came right to my stick … great, great feeling,” Martinez said. “Lundqvist is one of the best goaltenders in the world and the only way to score on a guy like that is get pucks on the net … that was the focus before the series. He had a heck of a series, so did their entire club. … I’m just ecstatic.”
At the other extreme, Lundqvist first dropped face-first flat on the ice after getting beaten, then rose and remained frozen on one knee in the crease for an extended period as the Kings celebrated en masse to his right — his exhaustive, impassioned effort cast aside in a Stanley Cup celebration to be followed by the Kings’ Monday parade.
That celebration means so much because of what the Kings accomplished, rallying from 3-0 to beat San Jose in the first round, answering a 3-2 deficit to the Ducks in the second round, winning a third Game 7 on the road in eliminating 2013 champion Chicago.
And then finally finding a way past a goalie whose goals-against average was near one in elimination playoff games.
“I knew going into this series, it was going to end in tears — tears of joy or tears of heartbreak,” Lundqvist told reporters afterward. “It’s extremely tough.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times