Dustin Brown, left, celebrates with Anze Kopitar, Willie Mitchell and… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Yesterday, in fact, has not seemed so far away.
Not for victory-starved Kings fans, who savored long ago playoff success from 1993, pulling it out for close examination, and, well, reassurance during the lost years.
The Kings have won one playoff round, in 2001, since that famous run to the Stanley Cup Finals by Wayne Gretzky and friends. They pulled within one game of doubling that total with Sunday's 1-0 victory against the Canucks at Staples Center, taking a 3-0 series lead against the league's best team.
One game from creating a new talking point in Southern California, a post-Gretzky talking point.
"We hear about it all the time from fans how much fun that was back in the Forum and going to the finals," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "They talk about it like it was yesterday. We want to bring that back to this city and to the fans because they desperately want it. And we desperately want it. We feel that we're a good team and we've got everything in there that it takes."
Now, after the stops and starts and near misses, is it the Kings' time?
"I hope so," Stoll said. "I don't know. You've got to make it your time. It just doesn't happen and enough guys in here know that. Once you take the foot off the gas you could be facing elimination really fast. If it's our time, we've got to make it happen."
Said Kings captain Dustin Brown, who scored the game's only goal, in the third period: "This team has been trying to put pieces together the last five or six years. It's been a long road. And I think it's really just starting for this team."
The Presidents' Trophy winners, the Canucks, are not the only playoff favorite on the brink of elimination. Pittsburgh has lost the first three games to the Flyers, including a nasty fight-filled fest on Sunday in Game 3, which Philadelphia won, 8-4.
Four goals equals the entire Vancouver offensive output in the first three games of its series against the Kings, all without the concussed Daniel Sedin. For a few minutes in Game 3, it looked as though the Canucks might be forging ahead without the remaining Sedin twin, captain Henrik Sedin.
Brown leveled Henrik with a hard check in front of the Canucks' bench early in the second period, leading to a brief scrum, and the injured Sedin had to leave the game, briefly. Sedin, who returned within a few minutes, would later call the check "clean."
"I knew right when I hit him it was shoulder on shoulder," said Brown, who had two short-handed goals in Game 2. "A good, hard hit. Guys know when they hit a guy in the head or they don't.
"Knock on wood, I have yet to be even on a [league] conference call. And I take pride in being physical and doing it the right way."
Game changer? The Kings were in firm agreement the hit gave them a sizable jolt in the second period after a lackluster opening 20 minutes. Stoll said they had been skating "in quicksand there with the puck."
"It was definitely a big hit by Brownie," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "That was one of the better hits I've seen in a long time. To do it on a star player, their best player, is just an even keyer part."