ANZE KOPITAR skated down Dustin Brown and just plain tackled him, dropping the Los Angeles Kings captain to the ice as a sellout crowd expelled 19 years of frustration.
Brown's goal into the empty St. Louis net had just secured a spot in the Western Conference finals for the Kings, who steamrolled their first two playoff opponents the same way Kopitar flattened his longtime teammate.
Eternal also-rans since joining the NHL nearly 45 years ago, the Kings are going deep in this postseason - and the best of the West hasn't slowed them down yet.
Brown scored two goals, Jonathan Quick made 23 saves, and the eighth-seeded Kings finished an improbable four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues with a 3-1 victory Sunday, advancing to the conference finals for just the second time in club history.
Rookie Jordan Nolan scored an early goal for the Kings, the first No. 8 seed in NHL history to eliminate their conference's top two seeds in the same postseason. The Kings only clinched a playoff berth right before their 81st game, but they've been unstoppable ever since.
"It's a special group, and we knew that all along this season," said Kopitar, the Slovenian star who had assists on both of Brown's goals. "Maybe we didn't break out when we would have liked to, but I think we've peaked at the right time, and that's the most important thing."
After eliminating top-seeded Vancouver and second-seeded St. Louis with eight wins in nine games, the Kings are the first team to earn a conference final berth. They'll face the winner of Phoenix's series with Nashville in the Western Conference finals. The Coyotes lead 3-1, with Game 5 in Phoenix on Monday night.
Los Angeles won despite its weakest effort of the postseason in Game 4, clinging to a 2-1 first-period lead while St. Louis dominated most of the final two periods. Perhaps the Kings didn't adapt well to an unusually early start time, but Quick made a handful of big saves before Brown scored his sixth goal of a stellar postseason with 25.8 seconds left.
"You heard the rink today, how loud it was," said Quick, who has a .949 save percentage in the playoffs. "It means a lot more to [the fans] than it does to us. It's a great deal, a big push, by us to win four in a row against a team like that. They were great all series long . . . but you heard the fans, how loud they were the last 2 minutes there. It gives you goose bumps."
"I can only imagine how happy Kings fans are right now," said Brown, who has never played for another organization. "They've been through a rough stretch, and to win on home ice, that's huge for everyone in this room. It's nice to see the fans get jacked up as much as they could. They haven't an opportunity to celebrate like that at home."
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla was suspended for one game by the NHL for boarding Nashville Predators forward Matt Halischuk on Friday. Klesla received a minor penalty for boarding in the Coyotes' 1-0 road victory in Game 4.