Dustin Penner, left, talks with teammate Jonathan Quick after the Kings… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
What once seemed like a so-so trade became a crucial move when Dustin Penner knocked in a goal with 2 minutes 18 seconds left in overtime to eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference finals.
It ranks as one of the biggest goals in Kings history. Hours later, when the team landed in Los Angeles, Penner understood that as he waded through an estimated 4,000 fans at the airport.
"It was like driving down a hallway lined with human flesh," Penner said. "You couldn't see anything except people screaming and Kings jerseys. It was a feeling that not anyone will forget ever, I think, on the Kings team. It's one of those things you only get to experience when you make it to the Cup Final."
Penner was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 28, 2011, but had only two goals in 19 games with the Kings that season and only one in six playoff games.
Penner, though, was critical during the Kings' Stanley Cup run this spring, and is now known as the only player to win the Cup with the Kings and the Ducks. He was on the Ducks' 2007 championship team.
Penner had the game-winning goal in the third period of the Kings' first playoff game this year, a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. He had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over theSt. Louis Blues to open the second round.
But Penner's spotlight moment came with time running out in overtime against Phoenix.
"It was a goal, I guess to sound really cliche, that was bigger than me," Penner said.
It was a redemptive moment for Penner, who struggled through the regular season. He had only seven goals and 17 points in 65 games.
"It's just one of those things that you have to just keep on believing that there are going to be better days ahead, even if it doesn't look like it," Penner said about the regular season.