The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 44-season history, beating the New Jersey Devils in six games to become the lowest-seeded team to capture the National Hockey League title.
Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis each scored two goals last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the Kings defeated the Devils 6-1 to win the best-of-seven series four games to two. It was the most lopsided result in a Stanley Cup-clinching game since the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 8-0 rout of the Minnesota North Stars in 1991.
The Kings are the first No. 8 seed to win a title that eluded Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky during his eight seasons in Los Angeles. The Kings, who lost their only other Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1993 with Gretzky as captain, now will raise their own championship banner to the rafters of the Staples Center alongside the 16 won by the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“A guy by the name of Wayne Gretzky came here in ’93 and changed the game,” Kings captain Dustin Brown, who opened the Game 6 scoring, said in a televised interview before hoisting the Stanley Cup. “Winning this game, I don’t know what it’s going to do (for hockey in Los Angeles). We’ll find out in about 20 years.”
The Kings, coming off consecutive losses for the first time in the postseason, scored three first-period goals last night thanks to a five-minute boarding penalty on New Jersey’s Steve Bernier, who was thrown out of the game for a hit against Rob Scuderi.
The lead held up behind goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the postseason’s most valuable player after allowing 29 goals in 20 games.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the group here,” Quick said. “We worked so hard for so long, nothing was given to us and we had to fight for everything.”
The only other eighth seed to play in the Stanley Cup Final was the 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers, who lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. Before this season, the Kings hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001.
“We just got confident,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who had two assists last night. “We just got that chemistry on and off the ice and from there we went sailing.”
Less than a minute after Bernier’s penalty, Brown notched his eighth goal of the playoffs and first in the Stanley Cup Final. Carter increased the lead 1:42 later, credited for a goal after Brown circled the slot and fired a shot that deflected past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Lewis scored the third Los Angeles goal on the power play at the 15:01 mark of the first period, collecting a loose puck in front of the net and slamming it past Brodeur.
Carter extended the Kings’ advantage to 4-0 less than two minutes into the second period, taking a pass from Brown and firing a wrist shot into the top of the net over Brodeur’s stick-side shoulder.
Adam Henrique scored the Devils’ lone goal with 1:15 left in the second period off an assist from Petr Sykora.
The Kings added two more goals in the final minutes of the third period. Lewis scored into an empty net with 3:45 remaining and Matt Greene capped the scoring for Los Angeles with an unassisted goal 15 seconds later.
“We calmed down after losing two,” said Brown, the second American-born captain to lead a Stanley Cup-winning team after Derian Hatcher in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. “We focused in, played calm and got off to a good start.”
Los Angeles entered this postseason as the lowest seed in the Western Conference, having gone 40-27-15 during the regular season. The team was 13-12-4 when coach Terry Murray was fired in December and went 25-13-11 under his replacement, Darryl Sutter, to reach the playoffs.
The Kings opened a 3-0 lead in all four of their postseason series and eliminated the top three seeds in the Western Conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final. They were dominant on the road, winning a record 10 straight playoff games away from home before a 2-1 defeat against the Devils in Game 5 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
After their consecutive losses, the Kings rebounded last night in Los Angeles to become the first team to lift the Stanley Cup at home since the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
“They played a hell of a series,” Brodeur said. “They were a tough team to play against all along. Even the games we won, we really had to work hard for them.”