LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings reclaimed the Stanley Cup on Friday with a double overtime win over the New York Rangers that capped one of the most remarkable postseasons in National Hockey League history.
With both teams close to exhaustion, broken sticks scattered on the ice and fans at the Staples Center roaring themselves hoarse during a heart-pounding contest, the Kings sealed a 4-1 series victory with a 3-2 win in Game Five.
The winning goal came courtesy of defenseman Alec Martinez almost 15 minutes into the second overtime, triggering a wild celebration as Kings captain Dustin Brown raised the Stanley Cup above his head.
“We always had the confidence. We just had a bad start to the first series,” said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. “But we never gave up, we were fully confident that we were going to get to this point and I am so happy right now.”
The Kings struck first in the opening period through Justin Williams, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs, but the Rangers got goals form Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle during a four-minute span late in the middle frame to move in front.
Marian Gaborik, who finished as the leading scorer in the playoffs with 14 goals, tied the game with 12 minutes left in regulation before the teams slugged it out in overtime.
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 48 saves for the Rangers while Jonathan Quick turned away 28 shots for the Kings, who claimed their second title in three years.
“This team never quits,” said Kings center Jeff Carter.
“People have been talking about it all playoffs but unless you are in that room you don’t really realize what it’s all about and it’s pretty amazing.”
While the 4-1 series outcome suggested the Kings romped to victory, three of their four wins were decided in overtime and they overcame incredible odds to make the final, playing the maximum seven games in all three series en route to the final.
In the first round, they roared back from 3-0 behind to beat the San Jose Sharks. In they next round, they came from 3-2 down to defeat the Anaheim Ducks.
Then, in the Western Conference Final, they won a Game Seven overtime thriller to see off the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
“It wasn’t easy by any means. The past two months have been the most physically exhausting I’ve been in my career,” said Quick. “To overcome all the challenges and adversity ... our group is pretty special so it means a lot.”
Williams gave the Kings a 1-0 lead when he backhanded a loose puck between the legs of Lundqvist after a scramble near the New York net six minutes after the opening faceoff.
New York got on the board late in the second period when Kreider scored a powerplay goal by sending a cross-ice pass from Ryan McDonagh into the back of the Kings net.
The Rangers, appearing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in two decades, briefly grabbed the lead with a short-handed goal from Boyle with 25 seconds to play in the second period when he sent a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net.
The Kings drew even on a powerplay less than eight minutes into the third period when Gaborik fired a wrist shot underneath Lundqvist’s pads before both teams came inches from winning the game in the first overtime period.
McDonagh hit the post for the Rangers and Tyler Toffoli struck the crossbar for the Kings. Both teams hit the pipes again in the second overtime before Martinez found the back of the net and ignited the party in Tinseltown.
“I just saw there was a loose puck in my own end and I just tried to get it in our forwards’ hands and Toffoli a great shot,” explained Martinez.
“Fortunately the rebound came to me and I was able to put it in.”
Writing by Julian Linden; Editing by Frank Pingue