LOS ANGELES - Dustin Brown smiled his tooth-challenged smile to the world as he lifted the Stanley Cup for a second time Friday night, as any proper hockey captain should.
But a half-hour later, he was standing by the boards, the smile long gone, looking more deflated than elated.
Not deflated as in depressed -- as the Rangers were after losing the game and the Cup to the Kings, 3-2, in two overtimes -- but rather literally deflated.
It seemed as if the air, and life, had been sucked out of him.
He said this was what he expected winning a Stanley Cup to be like, not the relative 20-game breeze the Kings experienced through the 2012 playoffs.
The Kings endured a record-tying 26-game postseason slog that included three Game 7 road victories, a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the Sharks and three overtime wins at home in the Final alone.
"This one was a lot more work," said Brown, who grew up in upstate Ithaca and became the first American-born captain with two Cups to his name.
Justin Williams, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP, said, "What we went through this year as opposed to 2012, the Game 7s, the backs against the wall, what we went through to get to this point, is unique. Obviously, every Stanley Cup is special in its own way, but we really had to earn this one."
For that the Kings could thank not only those three seven-game opponents, but also the Rangers. Even though the Final lasted only five games, four were decided by one goal, one in overtime and two in double overtime. And the Rangers led in all three games in Los Angeles.
The NHL said 85.4 percent of the time in the series, the teams were tied or separated by one goal. Then there were the four times in the first two games the Rangers did lead by two, and ended up losing twice.
"This team, you have got to give them lots of credit," coach Darryl Sutter said as the celebration raged on around him. "Tonight is their 26th game. Is it 26? I'm not so sure that will ever happen again. You talk about 26 games, plus how many overtimes? We probably played close to 30 games since the 20th of April. That's pretty significant."
As tough as the Rangers played them, the Kings were the better team late in games, a pattern that continued in Game 5, when Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist faced repeated attacks from the bigger, black-clad Kings.
Finally, defenseman Alec Martinez became the unlikely winning goal-scorer. Or perhaps he was not that unlikely, considering he also scored the overtime series-winner against the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
Martinez became the first man to score a Cup-winning goal in overtime at home since Bobby Nystrom did it as an Islander in 1980.
The tying goal was scored by Marian Gaborik, who repeatedly was asked during the Final about facing his former team. He took the high road at all times, as he did on Twitter after it was over, writing, "Hats down to #NYRangers, great team, great organization, great people!"
Los Angeles never will be a hockey hotbed as intense as most cities in Canada and the likes of Detroit, Boston and Chicago, but winning has given the Kings legitimate region-wide buzz.
For the first time in the Final, Los Angeles outdid New York in TV ratings for Game 5, averaging 12.4 percent of homes on NBC to New York's 10.4. That is the second-best rating ever for hockey in L.A., behind only the clincher against the Devils two years ago (13.6).
When Martinez scored, a celebration erupted several miles away at Dodger Stadium, where many fans ignored the Dodgers game, then in the sixth inning, and instead watched hockey on televisions in the concourses.
The victory received the ultimate L.A. sports imprimatur when Dodgers announcer Vin Scully acknowledged it, saying, "Wow! What a team, what a year, what a finish!"
Outside Staples Center, police were diligent in maintaining crowd control -- there was no mass viewing of the game in the plaza outside the arena for either potential Cup clincher -- and departing fans mostly seemed happy and behaved.
Williams, now a three-time Cup winner (he also won with the 2006 Hurricanes), was asked to recall his thoughts when the Kings trailed San Jose 3-0 in the first round.
"Things looked bleak for us, but we were able to channel our inner will," he said. "We just didn't want to go away . . . What we went through to get to this point, to win the Stanley Cup, is pretty emotional and special, and we'll never forget it."