LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Kings' 45-year quest for an NHL title ended Monday night with an early flurry of power-play goals, followed by two periods of unbearable anticipation -- right up to the moment when Dustin Brown snatched the Stanley Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Hooray for Hockeywood.
Brown skated to center ice and thrust the 36-pound silver trophy skyward, the captain never flinching under the weight. Long-suffering L.A. fans, who had never even seen hockey's greatest prize, went crazy.
The Kings are NHL champions for the first time, and all the men in black played a role in this Tinseltown blockbuster.
Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored two goals apiece, playoff MVP Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in his latest stellar performance, and the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, becoming the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the league title.
"You never know. You get to the dance, you never know what's going to happen," Brown said. "We calmed down after losing two. It was the first time we had done that all playoffs, and we finally got off to a good start."
Brown had a goal and two assists for Los Angeles, which ended its spectacular 16-4 postseason run in front of a crowd including several dozen Kings faithful who have been at rinkside since the team's birth as an expansion franchise in 1967. Every other year ended unhappily.
After taking a 3-0 series lead and then losing two potential clinching games last week, the Kings finished ferociously at Staples Center just when the sixth-seeded Devils appeared to have a chance for one of the biggest comebacks in finals history.
One penalty abruptly changed the tone of the series. Brown, Carter and Lewis scored during a five-minute power play in the first period after Steve Bernier was ejected for boarding Rob Scuderi, leaving the veteran defenseman in a pool of blood. Quick took it from there, finishing a star-making two months by allowing only seven goals in six finals games.
"I wish I could take that play back," Bernier said. "I didn't want to hurt my team. I wanted to help them. This is extremely hard. It's been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it's not fun for sure. But there's nothing I can do now."
Martin Brodeur stopped 19 shots for the Eastern Conference champion Devils, only the third team to force a Game 6 in the finals after falling into an 0-3 hole. Rookie Adam Henrique ended Quick's shutout bid late in the second period after the Kings had built a 4-0 lead, but Lewis and Matt Greene added late goals for the Kings.
"You don't give yourself a lot of room for error, finding yourselves in a pretty deep hole," said Devils captain Zach Parise said, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and declined to answer questions about his future after the game. "It's hard, but we really felt like could get back in this and force a Game 7. We did give our best, but we just came up a bit short, unfortunately."
Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy, adding one more dominant game to a run in which he set NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Brown capped his own impressive playoff work by finishing with 20 points, tied for the postseason scoring lead with linemate Anze Kopitar.
And Brown, only the second American-born captain to raise the Cup after Dallas' Derian Hatcher, accomplished what even Wayne Gretzky couldn't do in eight years in Los Angeles.
"We never lost our confidence," Quick said. "We had to take it on the chin to keep moving, losing two, and we looked at it as, 'Hey, we still have to win one game to win a championship. And we have two chances.' Finally, we were able to do it at home."