This was must-see, priceless video — defenseman Drew Doughty pounded the glass and toppled over the bench after the Kings won Game 7 in overtime in Chicago, completing an epic Western Conference final series.
His gleeful inner 8-year-old emerged and landed on the ice.
Three days later, can Doughty and the Kings pull themselves up off the ice, so to speak?
The Kings will need to avoid a letdown like others that occurred after their greatest, most emotional triumphs. They dropped the next playoff series to the Vancouver Canucks after their seminal Miracle on Manchester win in 1982 over the Edmonton Oilers, and lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final after an epic seven-game win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993.
This time, the Kings have home-ice advantage. In fact, they are starting at home for only the second time in the last 23 playoff series — dating to 1992 — but Kings center Anze Kopitar doesn't think it matters.
"Obviously, they're doing some really good things to be in this position," said Kopitar of the Rangers. "Now it's about to take the next step and get it done."
For three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter did his best to cast his team as the lovable underdog — and it played, to a point. Statistically, the Kings did finish behind the San Jose Sharks, the Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL's regular-season standings. They started every playoff series on the road and in all three were obliged to win the decisive game on enemy ice.
It was a neat bit of misdirection by an experienced coach, shifting the pressure from his team to its opponents. But against the Rangers, there is no such underdog card to play. The Kings are the decisive favorites.
"We don't have much concern over who is the underdog and who is the favorite," Kings center Mike Richards said. "It's just about going out and playing. Just because one team is an underdog doesn't mean they're going to play any better [than] if they were the favorites. We'll have you guys chatter about that."
From Las Vegas bookmakers to NHL insiders to the Twitterverse, there is a sense that the Kings' playoff pedigree ultimately will get them past a Rangers team that finished with just 96 points in the regular season and had the good fortune to play a Canadiens team missing its No. 1 goaltender, Carey Price, for most of the third round.
The Kings received a scare of their own in goal during Tuesday's practice, when a shot by Kyle Clifford seemed to catch Jonathan Quick awkwardly up high, forcing the goalie off the ice. But Sutter dismissed it as unimportant and suggested, "Jonathan is a tough guy."
Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has been out since the opening game of the second round because of an injured knee, said he will consult with doctors Wednesday and could receive clearance to return.
There are many similarities between the two infrequent playoff foes. Each has a decorated goalie, Quick (Kings) and Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers); a cornerstone defenseman, Doughty (Kings) and Ryan McDonagh (Rangers); strength down the middle, and wily coaches, Sutter and his Rangers counterpart, Alain Vigneault, who split playoff series (1-1) against the Kings when he was with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Kings needed to win three Game 7s to get to this stage; the Rangers needed two Game 7s, rallying from a 3-1 deficit in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's been a pretty crazy playoff," said Kings center Jeff Carter. "A lot of goals. A lot of weird bounces. I'm sure everybody is going to try to tighten it up here."
Rangers enforcer Daniel Carcillo started the season with the Kings and was moved to New York in January.
"Both rooms have faced adversity," Carcillo said. "These guys, even the year they won it [in 2012], there's just no quit in that room. I've been in that room. I know the guys that are in that room.
"I look around our room and I see a lot of the same guys, a lot of the same characters. You really do need that. When you're up against the wall and you're tested. What are you going to do? Are you going to quit, or are you going to push through? All these guys have pushed through."
The Kings go into the Final with four of the top five playoff scorers, including Marian Gaborik. He played 31/2 seasons for the Rangers, with whom he signed as a free agent in 2009 after also weighing an offer from L.A.
The Rangers traded Gaborik at the 2013 trading deadline. He landed in Columbus — and wasn't a fit there, either — before joining the Kings as a trade-deadline acquisition. Gaborik has 12 playoff goals, one more than he scored in an injury-filled 41-game regular season.
Gaborik's return against his former team is just one of the many interesting subplots in the series.
"It's a little weird, obviously, but it's something special," said Gaborik. "Going to [Madison Square Garden] for my first time to play them is going to be different. I'm going to take this opportunity and take it and just leave everything out there."
Gaborik believes enough has changed since his departure from the Rangers that he cannot provide an accurate scouting report. The biggest change was their trading their captain, Ryan Callahan, for former NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis. St. Louis and Brad Richards played for the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning team that defeated the Calgary Flames, coached by Sutter, in the Stanley Cup Final.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun