Fifty-seven days, 26 games and 10 overtime periods after the start of the playoffs, the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings finally can relax.
The Kings clinched the National Hockey League title last night with a 3-2 double-overtime home win against the New York Rangers, capturing the best-of-seven series four games to one and hoisting the oldest trophy in North American team sports for the second time in three years.
Alec Martinez scored the winner with about five minutes left in the second overtime period. Martinez also had scored the overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals as the Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks to reach the Stanley Cup finals.
“Fortunately, the rebound came to me and I put it in,” Matinez said in a television interview last night. “We just had to dig deep and keep grinding.”
Martinez ended the longest game in Kings history by knocking a rebound past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, setting off a wild celebration on the ice at the Staples Center.
The win completed a Kings playoff run that began with three straight losses, needed an unprecedented three Game 7 road victories, and included three overtime wins at home in the finals. Los Angeles entered the Stanley Cup finals having played the maximum possible number of games -- the first team in almost 50 years to do that.
“We get to enjoy it tonight. We wake up tomorrow, it’s 30 teams starting all over again,” Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. “We’re going to enjoy it for a bit, and get back to work.”
The Kings, who didn’t hold a lead in the series until the first period of Game 3, are the first team to win two Stanley Cup titles in a three-year span since the Detroit Red Wings repeated as champions in 1997 and 1998.
Los Angeles this year avoided falling into the same trap as two years ago, when it was unable to clinch the Stanley Cup in its first home opportunity. Coach Darryl Sutter and his players said ticket requests and family obligations created distractions then that contributed to a Game 4 loss to the New Jersey Devils. The Kings won their first title the following week in Game 6 at the Staples Center.
Fifteen Kings players who skated in that 2012 Cup-clinching win remain on the team’s roster, including Quick, who was named that year’s postseason most valuable player.
The Kings played 21 games heading into the series with the Rangers, the only team since the playoffs expanded to four rounds in 1975 to enter the Stanley Cup finals having played the maximum possible postseason contests. Los Angeles was able to use its depth to limit the wear and tear of the extra games.
The team’s first 11 goals of the finals were scored by 11 different skaters, an NHL record. And when the offense needed help, Quick was up to the challenge. In their Game 3 shutout win, the Kings became the second NHL team win a Stanley Cup game with 15 or fewer shots, joining the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Kings’ Marian Gaborik scored on a power play eight minutes into the third period last night to tie the game 2-2 and send it into overtime. It was his 14th goal this postseason.
Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle had scored in a four-minute span late in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead as New York tried to stay alive in the series.
Kreider scored on a power play with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the period to tie the game 1-1, and Boyle added a shorthanded goal with 30 seconds left before the break.
Justin Williams, who was chosen the series Most Valuable Player, slid a rebound through a pile of players and between the skates of Lundqvist for the Kings’ first goal six minutes into the game.
“It’s heartbreak,” Lundqvist said after the game. “All three games in this building we could have easily won.”
While the loss will have little effect on the bottom line for Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the team, it does miss out on the benefit of hosting Game 6. The company generates about $3 million in revenue and $1.5 million in operating profit from each home game.
The Kings receive a $3.75 million bonus -- about $15,000 per player -- as part of the NHL’s Playoff Pool, according to the collective bargaining agreement ratified in January 2013. The Rangers will divide $2.25 million.
Western Conference teams have now won four of the past five NHL titles, with the 2011 Boston Bruins the only exception.