Kings top Blackhawks in overtime, reach finals
Published on -6/2/2014, 11:14 AM
By Lisa Dillman
CHICAGO -- They had not traveled so far and played so long, been through so much, to just skate away quietly and quickly into the night.
A two-goal deficit for the Los Angeles Kings less than nine minutes into Game 7 at the United Center would not be the final word about these epic Western Conference finals. Kings forwards Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll said it wasn't going to end that way against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"This time it's our time.' They had a couple of overtime winners themselves and they knocked us off a couple of years ago ... last year," Stoll said. "And now it was our turn."
Overtime and a crazy wrist shot by defenseman Alec Martinez through traffic and past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford put the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years. His goal 5 minutes 47 seconds into overtime dethroned the reigning Stanley Cup champions as the Kings beat the Blackhawks, 5-4, on Sunday night.
"I didn't know it went in until I saw Stolly going bananas there. He was getting pretty excited," Martinez said. "That's when I just started celebrating, too."
Setting up the game-winner was none other than Justin Williams, who only added to the weight of his Game 7 legend with the assist, plus an earlier goal. The Martinez wrist shot bounced off the upper body of Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy.
There will be little recovery time for the Kings. They will meet the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, starting Wednesday at Staples Center.
There was plenty of history, and sweat equity to get there. The Kings rallied from three deficits (2-0, 3-2, 4-3) before winger Marian Gaborik tied it, 4-4, with 7:17 to play in regulation, alertly jumping on a rebound of Dustin Brown's wrist shot.
The last time the conference finals were determined in overtime was 20 years ago when the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils. And the Kings' hat trick of three Game 7 victories, all on the road, this postseason is another NHL mark. They lost the first three games in the first round to San Jose, overcame a three-games-to-two deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks in the second round, and nearly went out against Chicago after holding a 3-1 series lead. They are 7-0 in elimination games.
"This series, and I can only speak for myself, was probably the most emotional seven games I've ever played," Brown said.
"One, the caliber of the two teams, and also how the games were won and lost on both sides. Leads, third-period leads, leads early, leads late ... it was emotional."
The tight-knit Kings group allows the players to be candid with one another, and emotional, if necessary.
"There are times where there's not nice things said to each other," said Brown, the team captain. "But it's all in the nature of motivating each other and pushing each other to be better. When you have guys that have been together, you're capable of holding each other accountable and pushing each other to the next level.
"The turnover here has been very minimal. Dewey (Drew Doughty) gets pretty emotional out there and sometimes it takes one or two guys to calm him down and he's great. That's probably the easiest example because he gets very emotional, which I love."