Fans of the Los Angeles Kings can exhale. Their long international nightmare is just about over. In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals Monday night at Staples Center, the Kings proved they are the bumbling knuckleheads of yore no more. They posted an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of New Jersey and thus, for all intents and purposes, exorcised the Devils from these playoffs.
The Kings can officially have their way with the Stanley Cup on Wednesday, when Game 4 will be staged. Obviously, there’s always a chance the Devils might suddenly pop a biscuit into Jonathan Quick’s basket and make a game of it, maybe even extend the series. But it’s unlikely. And if there are Devil worshippers refusing to acquiesce, they should remember that since the NHL implemented the best-of-seven format in 1939, only one club — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs — have come back from an 0-3 hole to win the Cup.
On Monday, after a stiff first period, the Kings displayed their superiority, and in the process probably broke the Devils’ spirit. When the Devils couldn’t convert on a 5-on-3 opportunity late in the first period, they must have realized their fate.
Kings capture first Stanley Cup
In a way, it’s more significant than a Lakers championship. The Lakers are expected to win titles. They’ve been beloved and supported since the '60s. They’ve paraded many stars down their red carpet. They’re ingrained in the culture of the city. They’re established. It’s Southern California, basketball is played on an epidemic scale, and the Lakers’ success is just an extension of that passion.
The same can be said of the Dodgers. And USC football. And UCLA basketball.
But the Kings? They’ve always been orphans looking for a loving home. Over the years they’ve smiled and waved, they’ve introduced promotions, they traded for Wayne Gretzky. And they’ve had their moments, including their only previous trip to the finals, in 1993, a 4-1 series loss to the Montreal Canadiens from which the most indelible image was a stick with too much curve.
Yet, the Kings could never bust through the credibility barrier. They were always just another colorful accessory on a glamorous beauty.
This will change all that.
Winning the Stanley Cup — and yes, the Kings still need one more victory, but again, it’s in the Kings-embroidered duffel bag — will elevate the profile of this stepchild.
“Since I’ve been here,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who slapped a spectacular shot past Marty Brodeur to make it 2-0 in the second period, “it hasn’t always been the brightest time in L.A., being a hockey team. We tried to turn that around this year. We want to win it for the fans, and we want to win it for ourselves.”
There are two sets of fans: The ones who performed the hockey aficionado’s version of self-flagellation for years by attending dismal contests in half-empty arenas with little hope; and the ones who sat out all that, figuring they’d start paying attention when the Kings gave them a reason to do so.
Both of them will benefit from having the Stanley Cup within the city limits. The former will soothe their wounds and cry out to the heavens in appreciation, and the latter will become just a little more enthusiastic.
Then there is a third group, yet to be formed: Converts who want to know what all the fuss is about. Those are the ones who might be seduced by a shiny Cup.
“This is a hockey town,” said the Kings’ Justin Williams. “But to stay a hockey town, you’ve got to win consistently. We’d like to instill something long term here.”
PHT: The Penguins' win in Game 4 shoved the Senators to the brink of elimination, but Ottawa has vowed to bring a better effort tonight (Coverage at 6:30 p.m. ET; Live Extra, NBCSN).
CSN: Their offense sputtering, the Blackhawks suddenly look nothing like the team that was the NHL's best in the regular season.
Video: NHL from NBC Sports
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