SAN JOSE, Calif. — The word "unlikely" doesn’t even do it justice.
"Unprecedented" doesn’t either. "Historic" only begins to describe it.
For the first time in club history and only the fourth time in NHL history, the Kings came back from a 3-0 Stanley Cup Playoff series deficit to win four straight and eliminate the San Jose Sharks. The fourth and final win was a 5-1 victory on the road in front of an especially hostile, sellout SAP Center crowd.
The elusive "reverse sweep" was engineered by a team that only knows how to win in the most unlikeliest of scenarios.
"We’ve been through a lot together in the last few years and that lends itself to the trust level in our guys and in each other," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "We were down 3-0 and that’s obviously not where you want to be but we never thought we were done."
How did they do it? It started with a mentality. It simply never occurred to the team that they would lose the series.
"At first, there’s a little bit of doubt after you lose that third game. It’s like, ‘Oh no, we’re down 3-0 and we’ve got to win four,’ " said defenseman Drew Doughty. "But there was no doubt in our minds that we couldn’t come back from this series."
To beat the Sharks at home in Game 7, contributions from top to bottom were required. It was the Kings that saw both their top line and their "kid line" produce while everyone else stonewalled San Jose.
After Matt Irwin, the Sharks’ replacement for Marc-Edouard Vlasic, scored just 28 seconds in the second period, Doughty tied it up with the Kings’ sixth power play goal in their last five games.
Jonathan Quick’s glove save on Patrick Marleau to keep a 1-1 tie in the second is a play that will be on repeat on news and highlight shows.
Playoff timeline: Check out a game-by-game breakdown of the Kings’ postseason run
It was quite possibly the biggest moment in the game and further demonstrated how tough L.A. is to beat when they play their defensive style of play.
"We got back to what we knew how to do as a team," Doughty said. "We’re just a defensively sound team. We’re going to work as hard as we possibly can and we have a good system in place. When we follow that system and work our bags off itâs tough to get pucks behind us."
Moments later, Jake Muzzin drew a penalty and the Kings converted on the power play when Anze Kopitar backhanded one past Antti Niemi for a lead the Kings would not relinquish.
"I think it was obviously critical," said head coach Darryl Sutter. "Jonathan made the one big save, the highlight save and I think that gave us a little momentum."
Quick has given up only two goals in the last nine periods. He gave up only one facing 40 shots on goal. His San Jose counterpart in Niemi, whom the Kings had already chased from the goal in Game 5, saved only 25 of 28 shots faced.
The magnitude of it all has yet to sink in. The Kings become the fourth NHL team achieve the feat and one of only five professional North American sports organizations (1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, 2007 Boston Red Sox)
"The history part… That’s no big deal to me at all," Sutter said. "We were trying to a win a series against a team that had home ice and was ahead of you all year."
"I don’t even know what to say," Doughty said. "We decided to just take it upon ourselves to make things happen and make wins possible.â
The rivalry with the Sharks has been more than cemented. This loss may have been the last as the head coach in San Jose for Todd McLellan.
But the rivalry they look ahead to with the top-seeded Ducks will be one of the most highly-anticipated playoff battles in Southern California history.
"We’ll be ready for them," Williams said. "But we’re going to enjoy this one first."