Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.
Today, Jake Abrahams, the Managing Editor of NHL Content at NBC Sports and a Los Angeles native, takes us back to one of the best memories from the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run.
If there was one team most likely to breeze through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was the Vancouver Canucks. They had experience, having made it to the previous year’s Cup Final, as well as momentum, having closed the season on an 8-1-0 tear to claim their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy.
Their first round opponent, the No. 8 seeded Los Angeles Kings, made a midseason coaching change, didn’t clinch a postseason spot until their 81st game, scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL, and hadn’t won a playoff series in over a decade.
Canucks in four, or five at most, right?
Dean Lombardi took over as Kings general manager in 2006, and one of his first major moves was acquiring center Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene from the Edmonton Oilers two years later.
Both were classic Lombardi types: rugged, hard working glue guys that every championship team has in its lineup. Stoll excelled in the faceoff dot, and was one of LA’s best penalty killers. Importantly, he also had a wicked shot. He only had six goals in 2011-12, the fewest of his career to that point, but his quick release could be difficult to deal with.
For example, the year prior, he converted on nine of 10 shootout attempts. No one has ever gone 9-of-10 or better, before or since. And he pretty much always shot top shelf, on the glove side. Goalies knew where he was shooting, and still couldn’t stop it.
The Kings won Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver, prompting the Canucks to bench Roberto Luongo and start Cory Schneider in Game 3. He held his own, but LA won 1-0 to go up 3-games-to-none. Schneider only allowed 1 goal again in Game 4 – a Canucks victory this time – and then played well in Game 5, which went to overtime with the score tied 1-1.
At that point, a Vancouver win would have made things interesting again. Two in a row against the inexperienced Kings, with Schneider breathing new life into the defending conference champs, and perhaps things turn out differently.
But all Stoll needed was one chance.
Early in OT, the Canucks were a bit too casual breaking out of their own zone. Trevor Lewis forced a turnover at the blue line, springing Stoll towards the goal on his off wing. With his traditional leg kick, Stoll fired and beat Schneider top shelf – on the blocker side.
Game. Series. Kings in 5.
LA carried that momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup, going 16-4 in the postseason. That dominance was hardly predictable considering the Kings’ best 20-game stretch during the regular season saw them produce only 13 wins.
They remain the only team in the salary cap era to win the Cup in 20 or fewer games. They are the only 8 seed to ever win the Cup.
Stoll didn’t score another goal that postseason, but it didn’t matter. That OT winner on April 22 in Vancouver was the first sign that nothing was going to stop this team.
PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL:
• Darren McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
• Alex Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
• Marek Malik’s stunning shootout winner
• Paul Henderson scores for Canada
• Mario Lemieux’s end-to-end masterpiece; Hextall scores again
• Tomas Hertl goes between-the-legs
• Borschevsky’s goal sealed with a kiss