LOS ANGELES (AFP) –
The Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 to win the Stanley Cup, completing their improbable run to the first National Hockey League championship in the club’s history.
The Kings, who had led the best-of-seven championship series 3-0 before dropping two straight games, completed a four-games-to-two triumph.
After grabbing the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, they became the first eighth-seeded team in NHL history to raise the Cup.
Dustin Brown had a goal and two assists, Trevor Lewis and Jeff Carter scored two goals apiece and goaltender Jonathan Quick made 17 saves en route to earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ most valuable player.
Quick said he didn’t expect the victory to change much for individual Kings players, but in a city where the NBA‘s Lakers have been perennial title contenders and the Los Angeles Dodgers a beloved baseball institution, a championship is good for ice hockey.
“Obviously you still go about your day the same way you always have,” Quick said. “I think the attention the team’s going to get is great. That’s something we have been looking for in this market for so long, is to get that attention towards hockey. It’s just an honor to be on this team. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The Devils, seeking a fourth title, had become the first team since 1945 to go down 0-3 in the finals and hold on to force a sixth game.
“I’m proud of our group,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “You know, you put some men together and you play games on the ice every day and I couldn’t be prouder of them as a group.”
New Jersey’s two wins had raised the question of whether the Kings would join the 1942 Detroit Red Wings as the only team to blow a 3-0 Stanley Cup Finals lead.
That fear was virtually over by the end of the first period on Monday.
Thanks to a five-minute major penalty meted out to New Jersey forward Steve Bernier for boarding 11 minutes into the game, the Kings scored three power-play goals to seize control.
“I’m going to finish my hit on that play,” said Bernier, who drove Rob Scuderi into the boards and left him bleeding. “I thought he was going to keep with the puck on his forehand and he turned back. I feel very bad, but it’s a fast game out there and it ends up being a bad play. … I wish I could take that play back, but I (can’t).”
Brown led the Kings’ charge, barging toward the net and re-directing Drew Doughty’s shot for a 1-0 lead at 11:03 of the first.
He then assisted on a goal by Carter, coming from behind the net and firing toward Devils goalie Martin Brodeur a shot that Carter directed into the net at 12:45. Lewis made it 3-0 at 15.01 of the first.
“We knew we slipped up twice so we wanted to come out hard in that first 20 and take it to them,” said Doughty. “We did that, and after that we had a three-goal lead so we had to play solid defense and play hard.”
Carter added another goal 1:30 into the second period, beating Brodeur with a wrist shot before the Devils’ Adam Henrique got New Jersey on the board at 18:45 of the second.
Lewis added another goal at 16:15 of the third, and Matt Greene tacked on one more less than a minute later against the stunned Devils.
The Kings’ triumph comes after a stuttering regular season saw them replace coach Terry Murray with Darryl Sutter in mid-campaign.
Sutter, who became the fifth mid-season replacement coach to win the Stanley Cup, said December “seems like a long time ago.”
“You know what, you look at the big picture now, and I was right on how I thought about what type of players these guys were,” he said.
Los Angeles stormed to the Western Conference crown. They needed just 14 games — matching an NHL record — to reach the championship series for the just the second time in their 45-year history, the first coming back in 1993.
They ousted top-seeded Vancouver in five games in the first round, swept St. Louis then eliminated Phoenix in five games.
“Definitely, this is the team we should have been all season, especially when Carts first got here,” defenseman Drew Doughty said noting the scoring strength Carter brought when the Kings acquired him in February.
“That made our team the way it is now and we definitely didn’t play the way we could until the playoffs started.”