LOS ANGELES -- Maybe the true nature of this Los Angeles Kings team was revealed in the moment captain Dustin Brown took the victory lap with the Stanley Cup and then handed it to a player who hadn't been on the ice in weeks, Robyn Regehr.
"It took 15 years for me to get the opportunity to do that," said Regehr, who watched in civilian clothes while his Kings came from behind (and do we even need to put in the obligatory "again"?) to defeat the plucky New York Rangers 3-2 in double overtime in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals Friday night at Staples Center to secure their second Stanley Cup in three years. "It was an amazing feeling."
Maybe the measure of this team that traveled such a different path to the top of the hockey world this spring is the genuine awe in defenseman Jake Muzzin's voice as he tried to describe the moment of hoisting the Cup over his head for the first time.
"I don't know. It's a feeling that you just -- I didn't know what to do," said Muzzin, who was among those young players who gave this Kings team such a different feel than the team that gave the franchise its first championship. "Cry. Laugh. Jeez. It's just it's unbelievable it's actually here and it happened and it's crazy."
Two years ago, the playoffs were a coming-out party for the Kings, who never trailed in a series and jumped out to 3-0 series leads in all four rounds.
This spring, it was a statement from the Kings team that they are here to stay. It was a statement that was in many ways infinitely more difficult to make.
"I think two years ago, it was a little easier when we were up 3-0 in every series," said Kyle Clifford, who was among the best Kings in Game 5. "This was a little more adversity that we faced this year, and it made it a little more fun."
Against his chest in a Kings-themed infant sling was his son, wearing King socks and jersey, who was born during the first round of the playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. That would be the series in which the Kings fell behind 3-0 and staged a historic comeback. They would fall behind again against the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks before winning the first three games of this final series against the New York Rangers.
"It definitely puts things in a different perspective with how hard it was, not that it wasn't hard two years ago, but we had to go through so much this year with the comebacks and the battles and the teams we played," said center Jarret Stoll. "It was a long road. It took everybody."
Two years ago, the Kings rolled through teams with superlative goaltending from Jonathan Quick, who would earned playoff MVP honors with a gaudy .946 save percentage and stifling defense. This year, the team was built differently, perhaps showing more flaws, but was more impressive for its abilities to overcome those flaws.
Quick was ordinary at times, as his 2.24 goals-against average suggests. But he was also stellar when he needed to be, as in during the first two overtime periods in Game 5 when he allowed his team a chance to close out the Rangers. And facing one of the top goaltenders of this generation in Henrik Lundqvist, Quick was better when he had to be.