While the Kings have received contributions from their entire roster this playoffs, it was Stoll's turn to shine in Los Angeles' 2-1 win on Thursday. With his checking ability, his doggedness as a penalty killer and his hard work to help set up linemate Dwight King's game-winner early in the third period, Stoll was very noticeable in the Kings' eighth win in a row for a 3-0 lead in the West final over the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Kings are now a victory away from advancing to their first Stanley Cup final since 1993. It would be Stoll's first appearance since he was a fresh-faced 23-year-old youngster with the Oilers and in his second full NHL season.
He vividly remembers the disappointment of June 19, 2006 when he and his Edmonton teammates watched the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate a Stanley Cup moments after they won the seventh and deciding game 3-1 on home ice.
Stoll remembers seeing the pure joy in the faces of a couple of much older players in Glen Wesley and Ray Whitney as they celebrated their first NHL championship at the age of 37 and 34, respectively. As a young player, Stoll wondered if or when he would get another opportunity. In fact, after the 2006 final, he didn't perform in another playoff game until 2010. But a return trip to the final seems inevitable.
"I learned how hard it is to win," Stoll said. "It gets harder and harder and harder. It's two months of hard work. But it can be the best time of your life."
The native of Melville, Sask. is 29 now and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In recent playoffs, the Stanley Cup winners have received strong play from its third line. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks had Sami Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins had Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke. The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks had David Bolland between Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd. Stoll, Dwight King and Trevor Lewis have provided a spark at times for the Kings this spring.
Before Stoll arrived on the Oilers doorstep, he already had experienced plenty. He won a Western Canada bantam championship with the Yorkton Terriers, a Memorial Cup title with the Kootenay Ice in 2002 and played for Canada in two world junior tournaments.
He also was drafted twice, first by the Calgary Flames in 2002. But after his camp was unable to agree on a contract with the Flames, his rights were dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The trade fax, however, arrived at the NHL Central Registry after the deadline had passed. So Stoll re-entered the draft and was selected by the Oilers.
Since 1980, only the 1982-83 Oilers and 1994-95 Detroit Red Wings won 11 of its first 12 games as the Kings have in this run. Stoll has been a big part of the Kings success.
"When he's slotted right where he is [on the third line], he's awesome," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "He's had a strong, powerful game tonight. I thought him and [Anze] Kopitar were outstanding."
Tippett upset with the Kings on-ice acting
The Staples Center is close to Hollywood, after all. But Phoenix coach Dave Tippett felt that some of the Kings embellished their way to penalty calls in Game 3.
Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty tackled Phoenix captain Shane Doan on a rush and both were called for infractions. Kings captain Dustin Brown seemed to go down rather easy when he was crosschecked by Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Kopitar had his stick chopped out of his hands late in the game by Phoenix forward Radim Vrbata.
"If I told you what I really thought, I think it would cost me a lot of money," Tippett said. "Personally, I've talked about this in a lot of meetings with Don [Maloney], our general manager, that the game is turning a little dishonest and it's embellishment by players. "When it's done well, it's very hard for the referees, very hard, because if you fall down near the boards or you drop your stick or you throw your head back, you're putting the referee in a very tough situation.
"You know, not just our game tonight, you see it all through. The referees have a hard job. What it does, it makes the game dishonest. In actual fact, to make it work to your favor, you got to do it more. You got to do it. If everybody else is doing it, you better do it, too."
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?