The City of Angels has a new star in town.
Thanks to a goal and two assists from Dustin Brown, two goals each from Trevor Lewis and Jeff Carter and 17 saves from Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings took a 6-1 win over the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 on Monday to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
The first eighth seed to win the Cup, the Kings had held a 3-0 lead in this series after a pair of wins in New Jersey then one at home, but the Devils had won Games 4 and 5 to force a Game 6. It was the first time since 1945 in which a team that was down 3-0 in the finals made it to a sixth game.
There would be no seventh game, though, as Los Angeles scored three times in the first period thanks to a major penalty from New Jersey to take command of the game and Quick took it from there.
The third American-born player to win the Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs, Quick finished the postseason with a mark of 16-4 along with three shutouts. He posted a league-best .946-save percentage and a 1.41 goals against average in the playoffs.
"I don't see it changing too much," said Quick. "You know, obviously you still go about your day the same way you always have. It is what it is. 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."
Los Angeles beat President's Trophy winner Vancouver in five games in the quarterfinals, swept the Central Division champions St. Louis in the semifinals, then dispatched the Pacific Division winners Phoenix in five games in the Western Conference Finals to reach the Cup.
All that came after a regular season that saw the team sputter to a 13-12-4 start, leading to the firing of Terry Murray. Assistant coach John Stevens coached the team for the next four games before Darryl Sutter was hired to take over. He became the fifth midseason replacement coach in NHL history to win a Cup and the first since Dan Bylsma did so with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.
"Oh, seems like a long time ago, middle of December, whenever it was," said Sutter. "But 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."
New Jersey was in the Cup Finals for the first time since 2003 and was looking for its fourth championship in team history, but it was not to be as the team failed to rally from the hole it had dug itself in.
Martin Brodeur, a four-time Vezina winner, gave up five goals on 24 shots while Adam Henrique scored the only goal of the game for the Devils, who were in the Cup Finals for the fifth time since 1995.
"I'm proud of our group," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "You know, you put some men together and you play 110 games I think we played, on the ice every day, I couldn't be prouder of them as a group."
The five-minute power play in the first period was awarded to the Kings as Steve Bernier was given a major and misconduct for boarding Rob Scuderi. The penalty came just seconds after Los Angeles' Jarret Stoll hit New Jersey's Stephen Gionta from behind into the boards at mid-ice.
"You know what, tonight's about L.A. and letting them celebrate," said DeBoer about the sequence. "If you want to ask me about that in about a week, I'll give you my honest opinion on it."
Scuderi was playing the puck behind his own net when Bernier came charging in and slammed him face-first into the boards. Scuderi was bleeding from a cut on his nose after the hit and the Kings power play went to work at the 10:10 mark.
"You know, it's a bad spot for him to be in," said DeBoer about Bernier. "Everybody knows Bernie's heart's in the right place. He's not at fault."
The first goal came less than a minute later as a Drew Doughty shot from the left point was redirected past Brodeur by Brown in the low slot.
The Kings continued to skate on the advantage and made it a 2-0 game with 7:15 to play in the period. The puck was chipped down low and Los Angeles won the battle deep to the left of the net. Mike Richards was able to slip it to the low left circle for Brown, who cut to the front and snapped a wrister that Carter tipped past Brodeur for his seventh of the playoffs.
In the final seconds of the power play, Dwight King rushed the puck down the left wing and charged the net. He lost control of the puck, but it slid over to the right and Lewis was able to slam it home with 4:59 left in the period.
"It's hard enough to get a penalty," said Bernier. "But listening and knowing they score three goals when it's your penalty it's very, very tough. But, at the same time I didn't want to hurt the team and hopefully they know that."
New Jersey wasn't able to generate much offensively in the first period and Quick stopped all four shots he faced. The Kings, though, did benefit from the right post late in the frame when Patrik Elias' shot from the slot rang off the iron.
"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."
It took just 90 seconds for the Kings to make it a 4-0 game in the second period. A turnover behind the New Jersey net saw Brown come away with the puck and skate it to the boards at the left circle. He snapped a pass to the slot where Carter wristed the puck home for his second of the game.
"As much as you keep pushing it out of your mind, it will creep back in," said Quick. "Especially when you get that four-goal lead, you know, it's hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit. But you just keep reminding yourself how dangerous of a team they are. The second you become relaxed, get your mind off what you're supposed to be doing, that's when they're going to take advantage of you. You keep telling yourself to work."
At the six-minute mark, Bryce Salvador was given a double-minor for high sticking and the Kings peppered Brodeur with shots, but he turned all of them aside to keep the game from becoming even more lopsided.
"It's a non-issue really," said Salvador about Bernier's penalty earlier in the game. "That's hockey and it happens; everything happens fast. I had a double-minor on a high stick [which was] an unlucky circumstance there too. At the end of the day, the team that scored first won the games."
New Jersey avoided another bullet as Los Angeles was unable to take advantage of another power play when Ryan Carter was called for roughing and given a misconduct at the 14:23 mark.
The Devils got some life with 1:15 to play in the second when a left circle faceoff win saw the puck come to the net and Henrique jam it in for his fifth of the playoffs.
A roughing call on LA's Dustin Penner with 16.1 seconds to play in the second period gave New Jersey a power play that carried over into the third, but the team was unable to take advantage.
Much of the third period played out without much fanfare as the Kings were intent on holding off the New Jersey attack that managed just eight shots in the final period.
The Devils pulled Brodeur with around four minutes to play in a desperate attempt to rally, but Lewis sealed the win with the empty-netter at the 16:15 mark and Matt Greene scored 15 seconds later on Brodeur and the building began the celebrations.
Quick joins Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins in 2011 and Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers in 1994 as the only Americans to win the MVP trophy...The 2006 Edmonton Oilers were the only other team to make the Cup Finals as an eighth seed. They lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes...Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar had an assist in the game and he finished the playoffs with 20 points along with Brown to lead all skaters. Both finished one point ahead of New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk...It was the largest margin of victory in a Cup clinching game since 1991 when the Pittsburgh Penguins took an 8-0 win in Game 6 over the Minnesota North Stars...The Kings are the 18th active franchise to win the Stanley Cup...The last championship for the city of Los Angeles was in 2010 when the NBA's Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games...New Jersey was the third team in NHL history to push a series to six games after losing the first three. The 1945 Detroit Red Wings rallied for three straight but lost a game seven to the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the 1942 Maple Leafs turned the trick against the Red Wings, winning the final four games to become the only team to rally from a 3-0 hole in the finals...New Jersey defeated Florida in seven games in the quarterfinals, Philadelphia in five games in the semifinals and the New York Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals to make it to the Cup Finals.