CHICAGO – Winger Justin Williams said the Los Angeles Kings' objective over the past four years has been trying "earn the respect of the league."
"L.A. is not just a place to come and play a hockey game and work on your tan," Williams said. "We want to put LA on the map, and put it significantly on the map with regards to hockey."
BOX SCORE: Kings 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)
The Kings have moved well beyond that goal after defeating the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Alec Martinez's overtime goal Sunday to win the Western Conference Final and earn their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the past three seasons.
"We believed we were a better team than they were this season," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.
The Kings will meet the New York Rangers in the best-of-seven Final, starting Wednesday in Los Angeles.
If the Kings could defeat the Rangers, they could join the Blackhawks as the only teams to win two Stanley Cups during the salary cap era.
"This is three-quarters of the way," Williams said. "This isn't the whole way. We have a big challenge ahead of us."
Now possessing a more dynamic offense, the Kings appear to be a much stronger team than they were when they won the Cup in 2012. But the Rangers have the NHL's hottest goalie in Henrik Lundqvist who has a .928 save percentage in the postseason. Plus, the Rangers have better defensive numbers than the Kings.
"To win that first Cup is the best feeling any of us have had, so we just want to do it again," Doughty said.
To get into this position, the Kings have to win three different Game 7s on the road.
PHOTO: Blackhawks vs. Kings
The Kings had to erase leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 to finally tie the game 4-4 with 7:17 left in the third period on Marian Gaborik's NHL-leading 12th goal of the postseason.
"Heck," Williams said, "We've battled back so many times this year, so many times so far in these playoffs. We said, Why not again today?"
It was an entertaining game with both goalies fighting the puck at various times.
"(Jonathan Quick) made a couple of saves in overtime and that's all we needed," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "He's there when we need him."
The Blackhawks-Kings series was unquestionably among the most best series of the NHL's spring.
"It was up and down. It was emphatic," Williams said. "It was very emotional."
In 2012, the Kings won the Cup on the strength of goaltending and relentless defensive play. In 2014, the Kings are the highest-scoring team in the playoffs, averaging 3.48 goals per game. The addition of Gaborik, plus the development of Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have helped in that regard.
It has now been 16 years since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings became the last team to repeat as champions.
"I think it's tough to repeat, but it's tough to win in the first place, right?," said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. "It's Game 7 in the Western Conference Final, round three, in overtime and it's one shot, one goal."