LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings saved their ultimate climactic finish for the grand finale on Friday as they seized the Stanley Cup with the signature dramatic flair that characterized their latest championship run.
With the pressure mounting, their home fans buzzing, and the game clock ticking away, Alec Martinez slapped in the cup-clinching goal in double overtime in a 3-2 win that provided the perfect ending to a drama-filled Los Angeles post-season.
“The Kings make it interesting at all times,” Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar told reporters in the afterglow of the Kings’ longest game in franchise history.
“It’s not just the playoffs, we’ve done it all throughout the season. It doesn’t matter how, as long as you do it.”
Kopitar is only partially right, as the Kings will be remembered for winning their second title in three years as well as how they accomplished it.
Los Angeles needed three Game Seven victories just to reach the championship series and once they did, they saved plenty of style points for the final.
The Kings’ Game Five clinching win was their third overtime triumph of the series, and each time they came from behind to seize victory.
Los Angeles faced a 2-1 deficit in the third period on Friday before tying it on Marian Gaborik’s goal.
The 32-year-old Gaborik was acquired by the Kings in a trade with Columbus back in March, and he turned out to be a steal, scoring 14 playoff goals to lead the NHL.
While his scoring presence boosted Los Angeles, the Kings’ magic also seemed to rub off on him.
“When I got here I knew I’d get a crack at (a Stanley Cup),” said Gaborik, who was playing in his first ever Cup final.
“This is an unbelievable team with (a lot of) character.”
Friday’s overtime thriller was yet the latest example of it.
Los Angeles stared defeat in the face on several occasions in the extra session where both teams clanged shots off the post and each goaltender performed acrobatics.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist valiantly made 48 saves in defeat, though it was Jonathan Quick (28 saves) who came out on top.
Just as the Los Angeles Staples Center crowd was chanting “We want the Cup”, the Kings fired a shot on goal that was cleaned up by Martinez.
It was fitting that a defenseman would earn the finishing blow as the Kings’ defense was the unsung hero of their finishing act.
The unit held New York scoreless for the final 55:13 of the contest, preserving the night with hustle plays like Slava Voynov’s deflection on New York forward Rick Nash’s open shot midway through the second overtime.
“It could’ve went either way,” said Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty. “We came up bigger in the end. It was a great series and a great game for NHL hockey.”
The Kings have now become an unmistakable force in the NHL. No team has a repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998, but the Kings have to be considered a team that could join that group.
Only a Western Conference final loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 has halted Los Angeles’ run over the last three years.
“To be able to (win two Stanley Cups) in a short time is awesome,” Kopitar said. “It’s great when you do it the first time, you never know when you’re going to be able to come back and give yourself a chance.”
The Kings’ first Stanley Cup run, in 2012, was built on dominance - they finished 16-4 for the entire playoffs - but their latest was all about dramatic endings.
“We won three Game Sevens in a row, I think we deserve the Cup,” said Doughty.
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty