LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings were finally crowned National Hockey League (NHL) champions on Monday, punishing the New Jersey Devils 6-1 to hoist their maiden Stanley Cup on a perfect night for California dreaming.
After failing to clinch their maiden championship in the previous two games of the series, the Kings settled any nerves with three first period goals while Steve Bernier was serving a game-changing penalty for a hit that left Rob Scuderi with blood pouring from his mouth.
The Kings wasted no time making the Devils pay for their sins with captain Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis all scoring in a span of less than four minutes to leave New Jersey in a 3-0 hole.
“This is something everyone’s dreamed of for their whole lives and this city’ dreamed of for 45 years,” said Brown. “I can’t really explain it. We had an opportunity to do something special on home ice and we did, and we’re champions.”
With the Stanley Cup and its white-gloved entourage in the Staples Center, champagne on ice and long-suffering fans eager to celebrate, the sellout crowd was chanting “We want the Cup. We want the Cup” with 40 minutes still to play in regulation.
Two periods later they would own the treasured trophy as the eighth-seeded Kings completed one of the most remarkable playoff runs the league has ever seen.
“It’s just everything you pretty much dream and dreams just came true,” said Slovenian-born Kings sniper Anze Kopitar. “To do it in front of the home crowd, to have my family here, my girlfriend ... to do it in front of them and share it with them is unbelievable.”
As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the capacity crowd on its feet, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick - voted the most valuable player of the playoffs - tossed his gloves to the air before being mobbed by team mates while confetti and streamers rained down from the rafters.
Then came the moment Los Angeles hockey fans had waited nearly a half-century for, to witness the Stanley Cup being brought to the ice and handed over to the Kings by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
A week ago the Kings’ Stanley Cup coronation had seemed a certainty as they raced out to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
But even in Hollywood things do not always go according to script and the series turned into an edge-of-your-seat thriller as the Devils stormed grabbed two wins and threatened to force a decisive seventh game in New Jersey.
There have been 25 teams that have found themselves down 3-0 in the final series and only once - the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs - has a team come back to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Devils already found themselves in relatively uncharted territory on Monday as they were just the third team to fight back and force a Game Six after trailing 3-0.
But the magic ran out for the Devils as the Kings capped off a fairytale post-season run with a rout.
Up 3-0 in Monday’s game, the Kings kept their foot on the Devils’ throats as Carter scored his second of the game 90 seconds into an ill-tempered second period that saw New Jersey’s frustrations result in a string of penalties.
Rookie forward Adam Henrique gave the Devils some hope at forcing a decisive seventh game when he scored with 75 seconds to play in the period to spoil Quick’s shutout bid.
The goal, however, did not spoil the party as the Kings added two more in the third period from Lewis and Matt Greene to clinch the series 4-2, touching off the biggest hockey party Hollywood has even seen.
“The guys did an unbelievable job,” said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who took over behind the bench midway through the season after the team’s slow start. “These guys have been so good with leadership and with the young guys listening and staying right in the moment that’s all we talked about.”