Game 7; LA wins series 4-3
CHICAGO - Having lost in double-overtime in Game 5 and then surrendering a late lead on home ice in Game 6, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Los Angeles Kings were on the short end of the momentum swing in this series. The Chicago Blackhawks persevered forcing the decisive game and, with a chance to win the series on home ice where they were 7-1 in these playoffs, few thought Los Angeles had much of a chance. And if the first 10 minutes were any indication, they didn't.
5:06 into the game, the Kings got off on the wrong foot as Brandon Saad snapped his sixth past Jonathan Quick to put the defending champs out in front. Then, just three-and-a-half minutes later, Patrick Kane continued his torrid streak (on the powerplay) setting up Jonathan Toews to make it 2-0 Chicago. It appeared as if the 2012 champs were nearing death's door. But not so fast.
With just under 3:30 to go in the first, Jeff Carter wristed his ninth past Corey Crawford to put the Kings on the board. Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli helped out with the assists. Then, just 51 seconds later, Justin Williams - aka: Mr. Game 7 - tied it, scoring his seventh from Slava Voynov and Dwight King.
Unfortunately, the celebration was short-lived.
Just 12 seconds later, Patrick Sharp netted his fourth past Jonathan Quick to regain the lead for the Blackhawks. Chicago entered the intermission with momentum regained with the Kings were left deflated. But this one was far from over.
But just past the halfway-point of the second, Tyler Toffoli netted his seventh to tie it again with assists going to Matt Greene and Dwight King. But again, the Hawks regained their lead as Patrick Sharp slapped his second of the night (another power play marker) past Quick to give Chicago another intermission lead.
But in the third, the Kings were pressing. Unwilling to play their final period of the season, Marian Gaborik scored his playoff-leading 12th goal to tie the game yet again. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar supplied the assists.
After a number of chances on both ends with each goaltending stepping up their respective games, this one was heading into overtime.
For all the up and downs, the back and forths, how much this series resembled a Russian novel from plot twists to character development to conflict to, a little later, an exquisite climax, it could not be any more fitting that the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks were going to settle this in sudden-death overtime of Game 7.
This, the 39th Game 7 overtime in NHL playoff history, both teams exchanged some chances. But at the 5:47 mark, the Kings took their first lead of the game, driving that final dagger into the defending champions.
At the 5:47 mark, Alec Martinez took a weak point shot that found its way up and over a fooled Corey Crawford and in. It looked as though Tyler Toffoli had tipped it but Martinez got credit and the Los Angeles Kings - finally - stamped their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years.
On-ice jubilation reigned supreme while in the Madhouse, a pindrop could be heard.
Matt Greene and Justin Williams assisted on the series-winner and, for Williams, he moved past Hall-of-Famer Doug Gilmour to become the NHL's all-time points leader in Game 7s. Mr. Game 7 indeed.
I will write more on the exhilaration of this series later but as of now, the Los Angeles Kings are the 2014 Western Conference Champions and will play host to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night versus the Eastern Conference Champions, the New York Rangers.