Fans dressed in black and white lined a parade route Monday to celebrate the Los Angeles Kings' second Stanley Cup Final victory in three years after the team's thrilling run through the playoffs ended with a double-overtime victory over the New York Rangers.
Kings players aboard double-decker buses hoisted the Stanley Cup, shining bright on a sunny Southern California day, above their heads as they passed cheering fans on Figueroa Street en route to Staples Center. A giant banner that reads "We Are All Kings" was hanging from an entrance to the arena. where Los Angeles closed out a stunning playoffs run with a 3-2 Game 5 victory over New York.
- Images: Kings Fans Show Their Pride
Flatbed trucks with bleachers arrived along the parade route early Monday. Double-decker buses draped with the Kings logo were parked downtown, ready to carry the Stanley Cup champions past fans -- some of whom staked out a viewing area as early as 6 a.m.
Fans then attended a sold-out rally inside Staples Center with players.
The parade marked an opportunity for fans to cheer in care-free celebration without the cloud of tension that accompanied each of the Kings' post-season series -- all but one of which required seven games and included several Kings comebacks and overtime battles. Los Angeles fell behind 2-1 in the second period Friday, then displayed the same resiliency that propelled them through the playoffs.
"The first one is your first, so it's special," said Kings goalie Jonathan Quick of the 2012 championship. "We faced more adversity, more ups and downs, so we're enjoying this one, right now. The whole run was up and down -- tough losses, dramatic wins."
The Kings appeared headed for an early exit in the opening round of the playoffs, falling behind the San Jose Sharks 3-0. But LA became one of only four teams to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, winning the next four games to advance to the next round against Southern California rival Anaheim.
"It was just a matter of winning one at a time," said Kings radio broadcaster and former Kings player Daryl Evans. "The toughest game was to go into San Jose and win Game 5. They don't get too high, they don't get too low. They trust and believe in each other."
LA claimed the Freeway Faceoff series in seven games after falling behind 3-2 against a Ducks team that seemed poised for its own Stanley Cup run. The Kings, for a fifth time during the playoffs up to that point, staved off elimination and went on the win the final two games.
- Images: Kings Victory Parade
"I always believe in my team and my teammates," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "When the playoffs roll around, that's the time we shine."
The win earned the "Cardiac Kings" a shot against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks with the trip to the final on the line. The Kings appeared to gain control of the Chicago series when they took three of the first four games, but the Blackhawks fought back to even the series at three games apiece.
Once again the Kings found themselves in a Game 7, this time facing a 2-0 deficit early before scrapping back to within 3-2 entering the second period. LA trailed 4-3 midway through the third period when Marion Gaborik backhanded home a goal to force overtime.
Defenseman Alec Martinez clinched the series for LA in overtime with a wrist shot that found the back of the net.
Los Angeles was poised for a Stanley Cup Final sweep of the Rangers after winning the first three games, but New York extended the series with a win in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden. The series returned to Staples Center Friday, when the Kings won on another clinching goal from Martinez, who slammed a rebound past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 14:43 of the second overtime.
"I'm not a hero," Martinez said Monday. "I don't care who scored those goals as long as it was someone in our room."
The goal sent the Staples Center crowd, already its feet throughout the overtime periods, into a frenzy and gave the franchise its second Stanley Cup since Los Angeles was awarded an NHL team in 1966. For much of the team's history, that moment of elation seemed out of reach as the team endured several seasons of early playoff exits and mediocrity.
- Watch: Kings Parade Confetti Blast
Then the "The Great One" arrived. In 1988 after a blockbuster trade with the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky spent eight years in LA and the team reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 1993, losing to Montreal in five games.
The team hit another dry spell until 2012, when it won the first of two Stanley Cups by defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-2.