At last, a party that's fit for Kings


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LOS ANGELES -- The Stanley Cup barely had the Los Angeles Kings' fingerprints on it before Darryl Sutter suggested they should start preparing to win it again.

"The first thing you think about as a coach, these guys are all young enough, they've got to try it again," the coach said Monday night, mere moments after raising the Cup for the first time himself.

The Kings partied until well after midnight at a restaurant overlooking the Staples Center ice, where Los Angeles completed its 16-4 rampage through the postseason to the franchise's first NHL title.

After nearly 45 years without a Cup and one stretch of eight consecutive years (2002-10) without making the playoffs, Los Angeles and its Kings had earned every minute of it.

Music boomed and drinks flowed for a few hundred friends, family members and Kings employees hanging with the players. Nearly everybody got a chance to raise the Cup above their heads for triumphant photos, and some unhappy toddlers were forced to sit in the bowl. The Conn Smythe Trophy also attended, and plenty of people borrowed Jonathan Quick's hardware long enough to chant "M-V-P!" for themselves.

The Kings weren't thinking much about how they became the first eighth seed to win a title, or how they won 10 consecutive road games this spring or how they made the second-fastest Cup run in modern NHL history.

"It's got to come from the room, and guys have to make a decision to work," said Quick, the record-setting goalie who carried the Kings through the regular season. "I think we did that. You can't say enough about this group and how hard they worked."

And then everybody danced, ate and sang at a party 45 years in the making. Later, several players took the Cup to one of their favorite pubs in Hermosa Beach.

This party will go on all week. The Cup and several Kings are scheduled to make appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and a downtown parade is scheduled Thursday.

Los Angeles is a hockey town right now, with everything from downtown postgame celebrations to congratulatory billboards, including a greeting from Patron tequila on the iconic Sunset Strip. Thousands of drivers are flying Kings colors, and the parade should be a culmination of the best time in club history since Wayne Gretzky ruled the Forum.

It's good to be a King, whether you're rookie surprise Dwight King or any King at all. And they've got no reason to think next year can't be just as exciting.

The Kings' surge actually began in the regular season when a talented roster came together in the final 20 games or so. Although they never faced elimination in the postseason, it was a distinct possibility during the regular season, when they did not clinch a playoff spot until right before their 81st game.

Los Angeles was a changed team after a high-risk trade of puck-moving defenseman Jack Johnson for power forward Jeff Carter, who scored two goals -- including what turned out to be the winner -- in the Kings' 6-1 Cup-clinching win against New Jersey in Game 6.

The NHL's lowest-scoring team around the time of that trade culminated its season with a fitting footnote: Los Angeles had not scored six goals in a game this season until the clincher.

Los Angeles' older players, including elder statesman Willie Mitchell and tenacious forward Simon Gagne, played seamlessly alongside young defenseman Drew Doughty, who lived up to his lavish $56 million contract after a rocky start to the year, and power forward King, who provided scoring and physical play.

Los Angeles' top unrestricted free agents are forwards Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner and Colin Fraser. Stoll was a steadying influence and key special-teams player, while Penner was an imposing physical presence on a playoff line with Carter and Mike Richards.

"These guys, since March 1st, they've lost about six games," Sutter said. "Pretty awesome. Tells you what type of players they are."

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