VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 13: Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with Drew Doughty #8 after scoring aginst the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on April 13, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Dean Lombardi has been looking to put his team over the top for several years, but now his moves finally seem to be paying off.
Dean Lombardi has pursued the goal of turning the Los Angeles Kings into Stanley Cup Champions with no shortage of zeal over the past few years.
In the past, that included aggressive deadline moves that brought Ryan Smith, Freddy Modin and Dustin Penner to the City of Angels. He was willing to wait out Drew Doughty's holdout for a new contract. He dumped former head coach Terry Murray in favor of Darryl Sutter, made an aggressive pursuit of Ilya Kovalchuk during free agency, gambled on the swap of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds for Mike Richards, and most recently decided to reunite Richards with former teammate Jeff Carter.
His best move, however, might have been changing his mind.
Back on Feb. 23, TSN's Bob MacKenzie broke the news that Kings' captain Dustin Brown was on the trading block. By all reports, the price was high, but a number of clubs were interested -- including the Vancouver Canucks. Then, within hours of the trade deadline, the plan changed. The club made it clear that Brown was no longer on the table, and the team was content to go forward as constructed.
From start to finish in Game 2 of their playoff series with those Canucks, the Kings' blueprint appears to be paying off. Despite questions about his leadership in the Kings' locker room, Brown was key to the Kings' 4-2 victory, delivering the 10th playoff hat trick in franchise history -- including two short-handed goals. Brown also led all forwards in shots on goal with six and collected a penalty when he engaged Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen after a hard-fought scrum around Jonathan Quick.
Brown was not the only recent acquisition to play a role in the victory, however.
Jarret Stoll, acquired from Edmonton in the deal that sent Ryan Smyth back to Canada, added a key third-period goal, and though Richards did not show up on the score sheet, his contributions in the faceoff circle were notable. Winning three out of four tries against Henrik Sedin in his own defensive zone, the most important play by the former Flyer may have been a faceoff win during the final minutes of regulation with the Canucks on the power play and the net empty for an extra attacker. Beating Sedin for the puck and sending it down the ice, the move ate up valuable time which Vancouver simply could not afford, helping to seal their victory and giving them a significant advantage going into game three in Los Angeles.