LOS ANGELES — As Alec Martinez jumped in the air, shedding his gloves and his inhibition, Henrik Lundqvist dropped to his knees in his crease. He was beaten. The Kings congregated in the left corner, jumping and hugging and celebrating the Stanley Cup they had finally won, after playing deep into the second overtime of Game 5.
“It came off his pad pretty quick,” Martinez said of the puck. “I just tried to get a stick on it and get it on net. After that, I blacked out. I tossed my gear, the guys jumped in, and I couldn’t breathe for a while. It’s a surreal moment.”
Amid the best of Martinez’s hockey life, of their hockey lives, was the worst for the Rangers, and especially for their goaltender.
Lundqvist went down, whether from exhaustion or devastation. He had made 48 saves — after making 41 in Game 4 to extend the Rangers season — but he couldn’t make that one last one, as the Kings won 3-2 at 14:43 of double overtime to win the series, 4-1, on Friday night at the Staples Center.
Lundqvist’s teammates approached, but he waved them off. He skated alone down the ice.
“This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had as a player,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “You work hard all year to get to this point, and we gave ourselves a good position going into the third period. It’s just a tough one to swallow. I don’t even know what to say.”
The Kings, meanwhile, continued a party that would last deep into the night and will last deep into the summer, as they clinched their second Cup in three seasons. It was a run that seemed like it would stop long ago. It was nearly two months ago, on April 22, when the Kings lost their third game to the Sharks, going down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.
Los Angeles came back in that series, the fourth team in NHL history to do so, and survived Game 7s in each of the next two rounds to win the Cup. They
The Kings wouldn’t need a seventh game in the Final.
“What we went through this year as opposed to 2012, the Game 7s, the backs against the wall . . . is unique,” Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams said. “Obviously every Stanley Cup is special in its own way, but we really had to earn this one.”
Said Kings captain Dustin Brown: “It was right up there with the Blackhawks [series]. I’m emotionally spent, like I’ve never been before, just the accumulation of everything.”
Part of that was the fatigue of playing nearly five periods of hockey, in a game that saw the teams combine for chance after chance after chance. There were multiple posts hit in overtime, multiple crossbars, a series of near-misses and intakes of breath that would leave anyone dizzy.
As Martinez, who also ended Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in overtime, said, “Every kid that’s picked up a hockey stick in their driveway has played in this game before.“
Well, maybe not this game.
Because even with a limitless imagination, it would have been hard to have come up with all the twists and turns that left the Kings spraying Champagne and drinking out of the Cup on Friday.
The Kings kicked off the game with a goal from — who else? — Williams, who came down the slot and put a rebound under Lundqvist’s leg for his ninth goal of the postseason 6:04 into the first. It was his 25th point of the postseason.
“I can’t believe I won that,” Williams said of the trophy, amid tears. “That will, I don’t think, ever, ever sink in.”
His goal marked the first lead for the Kings at the Staples Center in the Final, despite having won two previous games there.
Then, in less than four minutes, that lead was gone. The Rangers got their first at 15:37 of the second period on a pretty pass from Ryan McDonagh in the right circle to Chris Kreider on the power play. Fellow Massachusetts native and BC alum Brian Boyle gave the Rangers the lead at 19:31 of the period with a shorthanded goal on which he went around Drew Doughty and slipped the puck just inside the post.
The Kings tied the score at 7:56 of the third period on a power play goal by Marian Gaborik, and the teams settled in to play for a long, long while.
It had been that sort of run for the Kings, a run that seemed over and over like it was going to end. But it never did, at least not until the Los Angeles players were skating around the ice with the Stanley Cup over their heads, having won three of the four games in the Final in overtime.
“Things looked bleak for us,” Williams said. “But we were able to channel our inner will. We just didn’t want to go away. The term ‘one at a time’ certainly applied to us that series.
“What we went through to get to this point, to win the Stanley Cup, is pretty emotional and special, and we’ll never forget it."Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.