It was on Monday, June 19th, 2006, in Raleigh, North Carolina, when Justin Williams scored the empty net goal that would seal the Cup clinching victory for the Hurricanes. The former Hartford Whalers would go on to secure the franchise’s first Stanley Cup on home ice, in a thrilling game seven win over the Edmonton Oilers. As the Hurricanes and their fans celebrated, the dejected Oilers could only look on in disappointment, their Stanley Cup dreams dashed. Euphoria on one side, heartbreak on the other. Nobody expected the Oilers to even be in this position, as an 8th seed team, yet there they were, one win away from a championship. There are some NHL players who get the amazing privilege of winning a Stanley Cup, sometimes even more than one. And then there are those who never get the chance to sip champagne from the coveted trophy, and to get so close and fall short can be devastating. Heads down, words few, most of the men sitting in the visitors dressing room that night wondered if they would ever get this chance again.
Despite the successful playoff run in 06, the departure of all star defenceman Chris Pronger would set the Oilers back. They didn’t make the post-season the following season, or at all since then, making that Stanley Cup loss sting even more. For two of the Oilers who were part of that Cindereall story, it was a trade in the summer of 2008 that would begin their run to redemption. Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene, heart and soul players, were traded to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. The Kings were in re-build mode at the time, therefore it was a swap from one non-playoff team another. But the Kings had a lot of talent in their organization, and were certainly a team on the rise. Despite the potential, Stoll still wondered whether he’d ever get another shot at winning the Cup.
The Kings finally broke through into the postseason in 2009, losing to the Canucks in the 1st round. The were ousted the following season by the Sharks, but had finally begun to establish themselves as a playoff contender. The 2011-12 season held a lot of promise for Los Angeles, but they struggled all year long, and even changed their head coach midseason. They finished the year strong however, getting into the playoffs as the 8th seed. It was a familar position for Stoll and Greene, who knew full well that anything can happen once the playoffs begin. In historic dominating fashion, the Kings knocked off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd seeds in the Western Conference on their way to the Stanley Cup final. The Kings would go up 3 games to none on the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils and would eventually win game 6 to capture the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Ironically, Justin Williams, the man who put a dagger in the heart of Oilers fans with his goal in 2006, was a key member of the Los Angeles Kings this season. Jarret Stoll was the hero for the Kings in the first round, scoring the overtime winner against the Vancouver Canucks that sent L.A to the conference semi-finals. Alternate captain Matt Greene provided solid minutes on the blueline all playoffs long, and scored a goal in the Cup winning game. The duo’s leadership, character and experience played a huge role in the Kings championship run. And for a couple of guys who had questioned for many years whether they had blown their only chance at a Cup, this victory couldn’t have been any sweeter.