- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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LOS ANGELES -- They have played 3,705 regular-season and playoff games to get here.
For the fan in the nosebleeds Monday night wearing a Rogie Vachon jersey, it'll be well worth the wait.
The 1967 expansion kids from Los Angeles are just one victory from the holy grail of hockey.
Game No. 3,706 could be magical Wednesday night here at the Staples Center. The Stanley Cup will be in the building and for the first time in NHL history might be hoisted by the Kings.
"I'm very excited, but I can't get ahead of myself," said star Kings blueliner Drew Doughty, who, growing up in London, Ontario, dreamed of someday being in this position.
"There's no doubt it's a great position to be in," added Doughty, who again Monday night was brilliant. "At the same time, we have to reset and refocus. We can't take anything for granted. It easily could have been 2-0 for them before this game."
Well, it wasn't 2-0 for the Devils. Instead, the magical carpet ride of the spring of 2012 continues in L.A.
Miscast as 8-seeds -- oh, what a ruse -- the
juggernaut Kings are romping their way to an NHL championship with a ridiculous 15-2 record and a 3-0 Cup finals series lead over the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings didn't just hammer the Devils on Monday night, they crushed their spirit in a 4-0 rout.
The Devils gave it their best shot in Game 2 on Saturday night, and probably deserved to win, but there was nowhere else for their game to go. The Kings, on the other hand, had not yet played their best despite holding a 2-0 series lead. They vowed to kick it into another gear for Game 3. Did they ever, leaving the Devils behind in their dust.
Now the only team that can beat the Kings is the Kings. It will get a little wacky here over the next few days as La-La Land gets ready for a possible Wednesday night party. The Kings have to avoid getting caught up in that.
"You stay focused because they're a team that's had momentum for parts of this series," said veteran Kings blueliner Rob Scuderi. "That's how you stay focused. If we take our foot off the gas, they're going to get right back into it real quick."
Make it four series in a row the Kings have gone up 3-0. I mean, seriously, folks.
Scuderi won a Cup with a mighty talented Penguins team in 2009. But 15-2?
"So far, so good," Scuderi said, with not a trace of excitement on his face. "This team has done a great job of just focusing on the task at hand, what's right in front of us. We've been able to play in small doses, and usually that's a good thing."
Kings netminder Jonathan Quick continued to pad his Conn Smythe Trophy bid with a 22-save shutout, and he was key during the most important moment of the game.
There's usually one crystal-clear moment in a Cup finals that you remember for years. When the momentum shifts for good. When you see the Cup champion emerge.
That moment was Monday night when the Devils couldn't score on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted one full minute.
"You're sitting there thinking, 'If we can just get through this one,'" Scuderi said. "I thought that was a big momentum swing. The guys did a fantastic job. Once we got through it, we felt a sense of confidence."
"That lifted all our spirits on the bench," Doughty added. "I thought from then on out we were a better team."
"Me, Greenie and Mitchy, we've had some 5-on-3s to kill down the stretch," Stoll said. "We've done a good job of communicating and knowing where we are on the ice. And knowing where the threats are, knowing where the one-timers are and where they're not. Obviously, [Ilya] Kovalchuk is a big threat for them, they wanted to load him up, and we knew that. And Quickie is going to have to make saves, and he did. We just didn't want to give them that great, quality one-timer from a good position."
So much focus on the Kings' struggling power play in these playoffs -- it finally scored, twice in the third period Monday night -- but when we look back at what almost surely appears to be the Kings' championship spring, we'll mostly remember a penalty killing that dominated like few others.
The Kings have killed all 12 Devils power-play chances, including six Monday night, and have allowed only five power-play goals in the entire playoffs.
"The PK is fantastic, it has been all year," Doughty said. "It's one of the cornerstones of our team, for sure."
Penalty kill, 5-on-5, goaltending -- all dominant facets of a team that just won't lose.
Where did this team come from?
"We've been confident since Game 1 against Vancouver," Doughty said. "After that game, we realized we had a great team in here. We have so many different weapons coming from everywhere. If we continue to keep working and stick to the system, we're going to be very confident."
It might be hard to believe, but one win separates the Kings from raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 45-year existence, writes Pierre LeBrun.