LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup the hard way, ending their marathon playoff run with a double overtime thriller.
A post-season that started with the Kings having to dig themselves out of a three-game hole against San Jose ended Friday night in a 3-2 double-overtime triumph over the New York Rangers to seal their second Cup in three seasons.
The final lasted five games, with three going to overtime — including two double OT contests. It was the only playoff series that didn't go the distance for the Kings.
Alec Martinez's winner at 14:43 of the second overtime was a fitting conclusion to a post-season slog that saw the Kings run a gauntlet of Western Conference heavyweights before dispatching the speedy Rangers in the final.
It was the 26th game of the Los Angles playoff run, matching the single-year league record set by Philadelphia in 1987 and Calgary in 2004.
The Kings had to go through a murderer's row in the West just to get to the final after finishing 10th in the league with a 46-26-8 record and 100 points. Los Angles had to get by San Jose (111 points), Anaheim (116) and defending champion Chicago (107) in one of the most gruelling post-season routes on record.
Their latest campaign lasted 115 games, counting seven pre-season, 82 regular-season and a record 26 post-season contests.
Los Angeles went 7-0 in playoff elimination games along the way. Only the 1975 Islanders won more (eight).
The Kings are only the fourth team in playoff history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in rallying to beat the Sharks in the first round. And they are the first team to play — and win — three Game 7s on the road in a single post-season.
Throughout it all burned the belief that if the Kings played their game, they knew they were tough to beat.
"We really earned it," said forward Justin Williams, named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after opening the scoring with his ninth goal and 25th point of the post-season.
"It's been a wild year," said forward Jeff Carter. "A lot of hockey, a lot of ups and downs ... We had to dig deep. We really had to battle."
Like teammate Drew Doughty, Carter won Olympic gold and hoisted the Cup in 2014.
"A hell of a year," he said. "Couldn't ask for anything more."
Captain Dustin Brown hoisted the Cup first, then handed it off to veteran defenceman Robyn Regehr, a spectator since suffering an injury in Game 1 of the Anaheim series.
Brown sacrificed his body to get to the Cup, delivering 125 hits in the post-season.
Family and friends packed the ice as fans pressed their nose to the glass to watch the post-game partying. Coach Darryl Sutter watched with a smile, his son Christopher — who has Down Syndrome — hoisting the Cup in the celebration.
"You got to give these guys full marks," he said simply of his players.
The Kings squandered 3-0 series leads both times en route to hoisting the Cup. But they got the job done in five games — three wins coming via overtime — this time compared to six against New Jersey in 2012.
Los Angeles' remarkable road to this Cup was long and tortuous. It was an edge-of-your-seat record-setting ride though all-comers that will be hard to beat.
Martinez ended the longest game in Kings' history, surpassing Game 5 of the 2013 Western Conference final (91:40), by wristing home a rebound of a Tyler Toffoli shot to seal the Cup.
"I haven't been married and I haven't had kids but as far as I'm concerned so far this is the greatest feeling in the world," Martinez said after his third winning goal of the playoffs.
"It came out pretty quick," he said of the rebound. "I just tried to get it on net then I blacked out."
Amazingly Los Angeles did not hold a lead in the first three games of the final. The Kings led for just 14.6 per cent of the first four games — a 40:01 stretch that was all in Game 3.
The Kings trailed 2-0 the first two games of the series but rallied both times to win in OT.
The Rangers probably deserved better.
"Obviously everybody's very disappointed in the outcome," said New York coach Alain Vigneault whose team went past Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Montreal en route to the Rangers' first final in 20 years.
"You go into this hoping that you don't regret anything. We put it out there," he added. "We gave our best shot, best effort. Three games here all went to OT. What can I say?"
Los Angeles is the 17th team in NHL history to win the Cup in overtime and the first to do so at home since the 1980 Islanders.