Not after Jimmy Carson had scored the Kings’ ninth and final goal.
Not after the Calgary Flames had fired the last of their 42 shots.
Not after the Forum crowd of 16,005 had starting singing “Good-by” to the Flames.
Not after the sounds of “Hit the Road, Jack” began blaring through the Forum sound system.
Not until the final second had ticked away in Thursday’s series-clinching 9-6 Kings victory did goalie Robb Stauber finally relax, finally crack a smile.
It was that kind of a night, the kind of a night when a goalie would have needed a couple of the Secret Service men guarding former President Ronald Reagan in the crowd to feel truly secure in the crease.
“There were some weird goals on both ends of the ice,” Stauber said. “There was no relaxing out there. It was too weird a game.
“There were deflections and straight-on shots. But you’ve just got to win.”
Stauber, who began this series in street clothes as the Kings’ third goalie, ended it with the club’s biggest victory of the season to date.
“It wasn’t great goaltending by any means,” Stauber acknowledged. “It’s hard to give up goals you know you should have had. I caught myself looking back instead of ahead. There were at least three I should have had.”
None of the Kings were looking back after the game. Instead, the talk was of the Vancouver Canucks and the best-of-seven Smythe Division final that begins Sunday in Vancouver.
The question now is: Can the Kings win that series as they won this one, with a wide-open style that resulted in 33 goals, a club record for a playoff series, but left much to be desired in terms of defense and goaltending?
“I don’t know who can beat who,” said Wayne Gretzky, “but I’ll tell you one thing, we are not going to change our style.”
That was the same attitude voiced by Gretzky’s coach, Barry Melrose.
“We’re a good offensive team,” Melrose said. “When a team breaks down, we will score on them. I don’t see where it’s chiseled in stone that you have to win playoff games 2-1. Our strengths are offense and speed. If a team makes a mistake, we are going to score a goal on them. If they make nine mistakes, we will score nine goals on them.”
One of the keys to the Kings’ offensive surge was the teaming of Gretzky and his former Edmonton Oiler teammate, Jari Kurri, on the same line.
“Barry thought that Jari and I should be on the same line,” Gretzky said. “Honestly, I haven’t played out there with Jari all year and it brought some well-needed electricity.”
It may be tough on the opposition to face a team with the Kings’ offensive capabilities, but it’s not so easy on their own coach, either. Melrose nearly dug a trench behind his team’s bench as he marched back and forth, back and forth.
“My team is going to give me a heart attack. I know I’m going to die on the bench,” Melrose said. “I don’t know how old I’ll be, there are worse ways to go.
“It wasn’t a great goaltending exhibition out there, but we’ll get those 16,000 people back. A win is a win. It doesn’t matter whether you win 1-0, or 100-99.”
As long as the Kings have No. 99 and the rest of offensive teammates, the scores figure to be a lot closer to the latter than the former.