Listening to the Los Angeles Kings throughout the playoffs, there was a common response when asked to compare their experience to 2012: This one was a lot harder. So it made sense that the New York Rangers would put up the fight that they did. In the end, appropriately, it took the longest game in Kings history to seal the deal.
There would be no early deficit for the Kings tonight. They came out flying, with the first five shots of the game in the opening six minutes. Rick Nash took an offensive zone hooking penalty on Jake Muzzin but a sliding Henrik Lundqvist stopped Doughty's shot. That was LA's best chance until three minutes later, when Justin Williams opened the scoring. It was a classic dirty goal... Willie Mitchell took the shot, Dwight King and Jarret Stoll both got a crack at the rebound, and Williams eventually bacckhanded it through the legs of Lundqvist.
At that point, shots were 5-0 Kings. A response was expected, and it came; the Rangers got the next four shots and a bundle of chances. Brad Richards shot over the net on the power play twice, and Quick got blockers and pads on the other shots. Benoit Pouliot's dumb goalie interference penalty was offset by Drew Doughty's dumb cross-checking penalty, and after chances for Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, and Dustin Brown, we went to the break.
The second started off better for New York. The Rangers had a golden chance after Jarret Stoll lost his stick and couldn't block a shot, but Willie Mitchell got his stick in the way of Brian Boyle. However, after Dwight King took a high-sticking penalty, New York finally... FINALLY... got a good-looking power play. Brad Richards went to Ryan McDonagh, who delivered a perfect pass to Chris Kreider in front. The gassed Kings could do nothing about it, and it was 1-1. Mike Richards nearly deflected a puck (after a bad Jonathan Quick turnover) into his own net, while Clifford came right back and forced another excellent stop out of Lundqvist.
With 2:26 in the period, the referees called a verrrry borderline hook by Dominic Moore, giving LA a pretty good opportunity to take a lead into the break. Instead, Brian Boyle haunted his old team and made up for his earlier missed chance. Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty had each been out for the first 1:50 of the power play, and neither had the legs to stop what happened next. Voynov couldn't keep the puck in the zone and was beaten to it by Carl Hagelin, setting up Boyle to go one-on-one with Doughty. Being able to get any shot off was impressive enough, but with Doughty a little behind and Quick overplaying the angle a bit, Boyle's shot was perfect. Top corner.
With Henrik Lundqvist staring them down, the Kings knew how tough tying the game would be. Their first five minutes weren't exactly inspiring, either. Fortunately, they had Marian Gaborik, who came up big in a very similar situation against Chicago in Game 7. Drew Doughty got his shot through, Gaborik knocked in the rebound, and just like that, it was 2-2. Quick made one key save that just trickled wide of the net, but otherwise, LA would get the bulk of the remaining opportunities. Anze Kopitar had a perfect shot=pass go off his skate, Martinez put one into Lundqvist's glove, and both Richards and Carter forced turnovers from Dan Girardi but couldn't convert. Jake Muzzin's shot with seconds left went wide, and overtime ensued.
A furious overtime was on tap. Lundqivst pulled out a couple of top-drawer saves, with his stop on a Williams tip being his best of the night. An I-know-it's-overtime-but-you-have-to-call-it hooking penalty by Slava Voynov set up the Rangers' PP, and Ryan McDonagh appeared to have won the game... but somehow, his shot hit the inside of post instead of the inside of the net. (He even celebrated!) Tyler Toffoli matched his feat later on in overtime by putting a potential game-winner off the crossbar, with Clifford and Lewis on the ice.
Have I mentioned Clifford enough? He was excellent. So were Tanner Pearson, and Dwight King, and a number of others who form the LA depth. Thankfully, Clifford's boarding penalty in double OT didn't end up making him the goat, with Mike Richards and Slava Voynov both using their sticks to disrupt potential game-winners. Quick held up his end of the deal; Kreider had a breakaway as the first overtime wound down, but Quick got his blocker on it to keep his team alive. Later in the second, Zuccarello put a tip off the post, and a great setup of Doughty by Kopitar was denied. At this point, it was the longest game in Kings' history. It felt like the end was near.
And it was.
The Los Angeles Kings are your 2014 Stanley Cup champions.