Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 4/23/12
A team that so often wore their opponents down with smothering defensive play continued the franchise's tradition for dramatic endings. With the amount of poise they've showed during their five consecutive playoff road wins, their current advancement is practically being sold by The Most Interesting Man In The World, pardon any advertisements. "We don't always advance. But when we do, we do it dramatically." A 2-1 win in overtime at Rogers Arena in Game 5 served as the bookend of an eleven-year absence from the second round, a level last reached by the Kings when Adam Deadmarsh slid Josef Stumpel's rebound past Chris Osgood 4:48 into overtime in Game 6 of a quarterfinals series the Kings won four games to two over the Red Wings in 2001. Sunday in Vancouver, Los Angeles became the first team to eliminate the President's Trophy winners in five games since conference realignment in 1994 and sixth time since the trophy was first awarded in 1986. This series would also strengthen the trending of the parity exposed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as eight seeds have advanced into the second round in three of the last four postseasons. "Once the regular season's over, that eighth-seed-versus-one, that's out of the window," Jarret Stoll told FOX Sports West shortly after the game he ended by sneaking a short-sided wristshot over Cory Schneider's shoulder 4:27 into overtime. Closing out the series with a 37-27 shot advantage with an authoritative composure late in the third period and in overtime, this was not a team that fell into its current situation by blind chance and a few fortunate hops. A decisive series win in five games over the reigning conference champions seems entirely appropriate, and their Western Conference semifinal series against the awfully similar St. Louis Blues is about as pick-em as you can get. "If these two teams ever met up, it would be a hell of a series," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after a 1-0 L.A. shootout win at Staples Center in March. The Central Division-winning Blues finished with 109 points and fell just short of the President's Trophy the final weekend of the regular season. It was appropriate that a fourth-year King scored the overtime winner in the series-clinching victory. Stoll, part of a central character core of players responsible for engineering the club's competitive turnaround, has a Game 7 Stanley Cup run in 2004 with Edmonton to call back upon. But for team pillars Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick, this marks the first time playoff success has been achieved in the era they've been associated with the organization. "I've been here in this organization my whole career," Brown said. "It's been a long time coming to take a step in the right direction, playoff time. This organization, it has been a long time. It's an important step for this team, and we'll enjoy it tonight, and we'll get back at it and focus in on St. Louis." "We'll wake up tomorrow and realize we have a lot more work to do." Kopitar entered the postseason with six playoff games under his name and due to a broken ankle missed last year's six-game defeat to San Jose that L.A. contested well in his absence. He finished the series was four points and was a valuable player in all areas of the ice, finishing with a plus-three rating. His composure carried over to a post-game interview with FOX, in which he remained locked in on the task at hand. "It feels great," Kopitar said. "Again, it's always the first one, and it's pretty special, but there's some work left to be done, and we've got to get focused on the second round." Providing a preview of the level of goaltending that awaits in the second round with St. Louis, Jonathan Quick once again added his own momentum-shifting highlight when he stopped Daniel Sedin point-blank on a breakaway with the Canucks leading 1-0 in the second period. Along with the Richards' hit on Burrows in Game 1, Brown's shorthanded markers in Game 2, and Brown's hit on Henrik Sedin in Game 3, it was the Kings' identifiable stamp of defense and goaltending that served will serve as the series' enduring reminders in the now-dusted-off Kings' record books. "It was a momentum changer for us," Brown said of Quick's save. "That kept us in the game at that point, and we found a way to weather the storm and get a quick early goal and the rest is history."
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