The Los Angeles Kings advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers. (LA Kings Facebook)
If you’ve been following the Los Angeles Kings throughout these Stanley Cup playoffs, you’re probably used to Game 7s on the road by now.
For the third straight series, the Kings found themselves on the road for the crucial Game 7. Having won the previous two, Darryl Sutter and his men were experiencing something they’ve been through throughout the whole playoffs.
The Kings found a way yet again to win a Game 7 on the road, stunning the Chicago crowd in overtime with an Alec Martinez goal to win 5-4, sending them to their second Stanley Cup Finals in three years.
The Kings are now 7-0 in elimination games this postseason and will play host to New York Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Game 7 began exactly like Game 2, with the Kings finding themselves down to the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 early in the first period. The Kings started off looking lethargic. Making sloppy passes in their zone and skating with low intensity.
“We’ve battled back so many times this year and so many times in these playoffs, we said, ‘Why not again today?’” Justin Williams of the Kings told ESPN. “It was a total team effort, every single guy here giving everything they’ve got.”
Late in the first period, the Kings would find hope when Jeff Carter scored to pull one back. Less than a minute later, Williams scored his seventh of the playoffs to bring the Kings level.
The Blackhawks wouldn’t be done in the first period, as Patrick Sharp ended the first by scoring his fourth of these playoffs to make it 3-2. The teams would exchange goals in the second period, and the Kings would find themselves down one goal midway through the third period.
Marian Gaborik, whom the Kings acquired just before the trade deadline, scored his NHL-leading 12th playoff goal to tie the game 12:43 into the period.
“They find a way, L.A.,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville told ESPN. “They’re never out of a hockey game, they’re never out of a series. They’re dangerous.”
Ask the Sharks, the Ducks and now the Blackhawks, the Kings truly never go away.
Having been 3-0 down to San Jose and winning four straight to advance against the Sharks to going down 3-2 to the Ducks and winning that series, this playoff run was already magical.
After being down 2-0 early in Game 7 and forcing overtime in a hostile environment, Martinez took a shot by the blue-line which deflected off a Blackhawk body and went into the net, stunning the Chicago crowd.
“I didn’t really see it go in,” Martinez told ESPN. “I know it went off a coupe bodies. I just tried to get it through, and fortunately, it went in.”
With the Blackhawks’ loss, the NHL will not have a back-to-back winner of the coveted Stanley Cup, something that hasn’t been done since 1997-1998. With the win, the Kings advance to the Stanley Cup Finals and will play the New York Rangers. The Kings went 2-1 against the Rangers during the regular season.
Game 1 is Wednesday night at the Staples Center.