Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Final: Kings Top Rangers in Game 5 2OT

USA Today:
LOS ANGELES – It figured that a team that needed three Game 7 road wins to reach the Stanley Cup Final would need a double-overtime thriller to win the Stanley Cup.

The Los Angeles Kings, who proved its resiliency throughout the postseason, showed it one last time Friday night when defenseman Alec Martinez scored at 14:43 of double overtime to give the Kings a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers and their Stanley Cup title in three seasons.

Justin Williams, who scored the first goal 6:04 into Game 5, was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs. He finished the postseason with 25 points in 26 games, including seven points in the Cup Final. Williams scored the OT winner in Game 1 (3-2).

"Tonight's not a night to reminisce, but there will be a time this summer when you look back at what an amazing run it was," Kings center Mike Richards said.

The Kings needed a third-period goal by Marian Gaborik just to send the game to overtime. General manager Dean Lombardi had acquired him at the trade deadline to score big goals.

"We showed all year we can come back and we came back in this one," Kings forward Kyle Clifford said.

Three times in the series, the Kings came from behind to win against the Rangers

"I think it was a little easier last time (in 2012)," said Clifford. "We had a little more adversity this time."

The Kings had to come back from a 3-0 series deficit in their first round series against the San Jose Sharks. They won Games 6 and 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in the second round. Then they took a 3-1 series against the Chicago Blackhawks, only to have the Blackhawks force them to a Game 7.

The Kings join the Blackhawks as the only teams with two championships since the salary cap was introduced in 2005.

While it is too early to call the Kings a dynasty, they certainly have been the top NHL team over the past 36 months. They have played 64 playoff games in that span, and won 42. In between their two championships, they reached the Western Conference Final.

When the salary cap was introduced, the prediction was that it would be difficult to keep good teams together. But Lombardi has effectively managed his salary cap and somehow has managed to make this Kings team even stronger than the Kings squad that captured the Stanley Cup two years ago. Lombardi has cemented his place among the NHL's top general managers.

The 2012 team won on the strength of defense and goaltending, and the 2014 team had the goaltending, defense and a dangerous offense. The Kings scored three or more goals in nine of their last 10 playoff games.

With only Gaborik and Willie Mitchell eligible for unrestricted free agency, the Kings have the potential to make another strong run next season. They might be able to re-sign Gaborik, who played the best hockey of his career in the postseason. His 14 goals were only one shy of Wayne Gretzky's team playoff record.

He seems to be the perfect fit for center Anze Kopitar. It's the best situation Gaborik has had for his ability.

Los Angeles had the top four scorers in the playoffs, led by center Kopitar; his 26 points were one more than teammates Jeff Carter and Justin Williams, and four more than linemate Gaborik, who led all players with 14 postseason goals after scoring 11 during the regular season.

The Kings played 26 games in the postseason, only two short the maximum.

"I'm emotionally spent like I've never been before," Dustin Brown said. "It's an accumulation of everything."

Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter played six extra games than their teammates because they helped Canada win the Olympic gold medal in Sochi.

"It's been a long year, a lot of games, I'm pretty tired right now," Doughty said. "I never thought it would be possible to win both in the same year."

In 2012, the Kings dominated on their way to the first championship in franchise history. The Kings won the Cup in 2012 after taking a 3-0 lead in all four rounds. They lost four games, including two in the Final to the New Jersey Devils.

This postseason, they needed an historic rally in first round, becoming the fourth team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks; they needed three straight Game 7 victories on the road, an NHL record; and they needed three overtime victories on home ice against the Rangers.

The Rangers, if nothing else, had been hard to kill. They were 5-0 in elimination games in the 2014 playoffs and 11-2 in their last 13 overall. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist had a goals-against average of 1.00 and a save percentage of .971 in those five victories.

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