Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kings advance to Cup final

CHICAGO—When it comes to Game 7, L.A. truly is the king of the road.
Alec Martinez scored at 5:47 of overtime as the Kings edged the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 last night to advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years.

The Kings will host the N.Y. Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
L.A. improved to 7-0 in elimination games with its third Game 7 win on the road this post-season.
“We’ve battled back so many times this year and so many times in these playoffs, we said, ‘Why not again today?’” said Justin Williams, who had a goal and an assist.
“It was a total team effort,” he added.
“Every single guy here giving everything they’ve got.”
Martinez’s shot went off Blackhawks’ defenceman Nick Leddy and fluttered over goalie Corey Crawford—stunning the sell-out crowd at the United Center and leading to a wild on-ice celebration for L.A.
Leddy and Crawford were hunched over as the Kings gathered in a big huddle along the boards.
“I didn’t really see it go in,” Martinez noted. “I know it went off a couple bodies.
“I just tried to get it through and fortunately it went in.”
Patrick Sharp scored twice for the Blackhawks, who blew a 2-0 lead.
Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist while Patrick Kane added two more assists.
Chicago’s loss means Detroit remains the last NHL team to win consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998.
“I’ve lost some tough games but nothing like tonight,” said Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville.
The Kings became the first team to play 21 games through the first three rounds of the playoffs and make it to the NHL final.
The 2002 Avalanche and 1993 Maple Leafs also played the maximum amount of games through three series, but they lost in Game 7 of the conference championship.
L.A. also is the only team to play all three of those Game 7s on the road.
“You need everybody when you get to Game 7. You’re not into the individual part of it,” stressed Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter.
“There’s always guys that score big goals, make big plays,” he noted. “But you need everybody in your lineup.”
Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who once held a 3-1 lead in the series—only to have the Blackhawks come back to force Game 7.
Jeff Carter scored his ninth playoff goal in the first and Marian Gaborik had the tying goal midway through the third period.
The Kings also got 37 saves from Jonathan Quick in another resilient performance for Sutter’s team.
L.A. trailed San Jose 3-0 in its first-round series and was down 3-2 to top-seeded Anaheim in the second round before rallying each time.
“It’s just a great group to be part of,” Quick said. “I feel very fortunate to be with the guys.
“Obviously our journey’s not done yet and we’ve got a lot of work here coming up,” he added.
“New York’s an awesome team. They beat great teams so they’re battle-tested, as well, so we’ve got a lot to get ready for.”
Gaborik, Williams, and Mike Richards each improved to 7-0 in Game 7s.
Sutter moved to 7-3 in such games—breaking a tie with Blackhawks’ adviser Scotty Bowman and Pat Burns for the NHL record for most coaching wins in Game 7s.
Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks while Crawford finished with 27 saves.
“This was a tough way to go down,” said Toews.
“This one’s going to sting for a while.”
The finale of the epic series between the last two Stanley Cup winners attracted a frenzied crowd of 22,315 that included Hall-of-Fame basketball player Charles Barkley and Chicago Bears’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
And they were treated to another heart-stopping classic full of big shots and great saves by each side.
Just like in Game 5 (a 5-4 double-overtime victory for Chicago), the Blackhawks got off to a fast start—only to have the Kings come storming back.
Kane picked up an assist on each of the first two goals, finding Saad with a slick pass from behind the net and then getting to the right place at the right time for a lucky power-play carom that went right to Toews for an easy tap-in at 8:36 of the first.
The comeback Kings, who seem to play their best the closer they get to the brink of elimination, then went to work.
Carter batted a rebound out of the air and past Crawford at 16:31 before Williams scored his seventh of the playoff 51 seconds later.
It was Williams’ seventh career goal in a Game 7, tying Glenn Anderson for the NHL record.
Williams later added an assist on Martinez’s winning score—breaking Doug Gilmour’s record for most points in such games with 14.
“They find a way, L.A., they’re never out of a hockey game, they’re never out of a series,” Quenneville said.
“They’re dangerous.”

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