Put a crown on that Stanley Cup. Add streaks of black to its silver. Fill it with sand, burnish it with sun, and welcome it home.
Kings, kings again.
For the second time in three seasons, the Los Angeles Kings have done what seemed like an impossibility for four decades, capturing the most celebrated trophy in sports by winning its most difficult championship.
“Go, Kings, go,” their fans pleaded, and so the Kings went, fire beneath their shaggy beards, hearts on their padded sleeves, through insurmountable deficits and breathtaking overtimes and finally, Friday night, through one more Staples Center screamer.
Trailing by a goal entering the final 20 minutes of regulation against the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings quickly tied it up, then agonizingly survived nearly two full overtime periods before Alec Martinez knocked a rebound slap shot into history.
The Kings won the game, 3-2. The Kings won the series, four games to one. And appropriately, the one constant through the Kings’ 46 turbulent years won the night.
Kings fans, they need to fit your names on the Cup. Moments before the final Kings rush that scored the winning goal, despite having sat through four exhausting hours, the nearly 19,000 folks who filled the arena suddenly found the energy — and foresight? — to began chanting, “We want the Cup! We want the Cup!”
About three syllables later, Martinez knocked in the rebound of a Tyler Toffoli shot to turn that chant into a thunderous roar that summoned what it is annually the coolest championship celebration in sports.
“You hear stuff like that, and you feed off the energy,” said Martinez, who also scored the winning overtime goal in Game 7 of the conference finals against Chicago. “This is the best feeling in the world, just as good as the first time around.”
Just as good? For those who held their breath for the last two months as the Kings survived everything from the impossible to unimaginable, this felt far better. Two years ago, they led each of their four postseason series three games to none. This time, they could have, and perhaps even should have, lost each of their first three series before winning three overtime games in the Final.
This time, they became only the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit when they defeated the San Jose Sharks in the first round. This time, they came back from a three-games-to-two deficit to defeat the crosstown-rival Ducks in the second round. This time, they came back from two deficits to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime in the conference final.
The Kings became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s on the road, and they eventually required 26 games to win the Stanley Cup, six games longer than in 2012 and equal to the longest postseason work schedule in NHL history.
“This one is a lot different, it was harder, we had it easy last time,” said Dustin Brown, one of 14 Kings who have won both Cups. “This one was harder. It gives you perspective. This is how I always envisioned it would be.”
The degree of difficulty was evident in the emotion of the venerable postgame ceremony. After Martinez scored the winning goal, the Kings threw down their sticks, threw off their gloves, and leaped on each other in a corner of the rink. In the stands, fans hugged and screamed and wept. As the teams engaged in the wonderfully traditional postgame handshake line, it became clear that stoic Coach Darryl Sutter had already partied so hard, he’d lost his suit jacket and found a smile.
The actual Stanley Cup was eventually, majestically wheeled on a red carpet to the middle of the ice, where the 34.5-pound treasure was lifted and kissed and skated around the ice by captain Brown. In typical Kings teamwork fashion, Brown then handed the Cup to a guy who didn’t play one minute in the final, injured defenseman Robyn Regehr, because it was his first Stanley Cup and because he had been such a big contributor during the season. Regehr then handed the Cup to another championship newbie, Marian Gaborik, and the parade of champions had begun.
“What we went through this year as opposed to 2012, with our backs to the wall, was unique,” said Justin Williams, who scored the Kings’ first goal Friday and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. “Every Stanley Cup is special, but we really had to earn this one.”
The Stanley Cup once again runneth over with black and silver and soul, the Kings’ excellence making an indelible mark on the local sports landscape. At this moment, the AEG-owned Kings are Los Angeles’ most successful and best-run pro sports franchise.
There is no coaching uncertainty here. There are no superstars holding the team hostage here. There is no public feuding among ownership here. And, believe it or not, every game this season was actually on television.
During the time the Kings have won two championships, neither the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels nor Ducks have even advanced to their sport’s championship series. Heck, the Kings have won more titles in three years than the Dodgers have in 25 years.
And even amid all the miracles pulled by each of the teams in town over the years, no local franchise has ever survived a postseason like this.
“We just didn’t want to go away,” said Williams, whose 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings will now live forever.