After some excellent hockey throughout a brilliant Western Conference finals series, game 7 was about lucky bounces and ugly goals. After a hectic first period with both teams scoring five times, thing settled down and got into overtime, where the Los Angeles Kings got their big break through an Alec Martinez goal, giving them a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and a 4-3 win in the series.
So the Kings are off to face the Rangers in what some might think is what the NHL wanted. A game between East and West coast and the two biggest markets in the United States. Not that the Blackhakws are nobody franchise, but once again, a team winning the Stanley Cup can’t defend the title a year later in what has become a Mount Olympus kind of achievement for NHL teams, going back to the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
Martinez scored with 5:47 of overtime gone by, his shot bouncing off of Nick Leddy and went above Corey Crawford, who had a few moments in this game he wishes he could take back. Most of the goals came off deflections or rebounds from Crawford saves, but at least on one or two occasions in this game, not to mention the whole series, Crawford had a chance to make a more positive impact with a big save or two.
The Blackhawks scored first and second, and Patrick Kane provided two great assists, one of them with a little bit of luck, to help Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews score. But that quick start to the first period was only the setup for things to come, as Jeff Carter scored his ninth goal of the postseason to put the Kings back in the game with 3:29 remaining in the first period with a controversial goal.
Justin Williams, ‘Mr. Game 7’, evened things out less than a minute later, scoring his 13th career goal in a game 7, tying an NHL record and tying the score. But the Blackhawks got a big goal from Patrick Sharp who has almost disappeared from the series lately – a goal that took more than one lucky bounce, and made it feel like the Blackhawks had something special going for them tonight.
Not especially, as the Kings stormed back with Tyler Toffoli, as he evened out things at 3-3, getting a wide open net to shoot into after a shot deflected caught Crawford way out of position. The Blackhawks took advantage of the Power Play as Sharp put the Blackhawks in the lead once again, but in a tense and less wild third period, Marian Gaborik once again showed what a great mid-season pick up he has been, scoring his 12th goal of the postseason.
Then came overtime, and Alec Martinez. The Blackhawks didn’t put enough pressure on Jonathan Quick and even when they did, the Silver medalist from the 2010 Olympics showed his quick reactions on the line to make sure the Kings don’t slip up in overtime once again after losing in a double overtime again a few days earlier. With time expiring, the Kings completed a very special postseason run heading into the Stanley Cup.
The Kings are the first team to play the maximum 21 games through their conference schedule, taking it to a game 7 each time, and win. All three game 7 happened to be on the road which makes it even more astonishing, but this team is made to prevail in these situations, or so it seems. 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 championships.
We’ve battled back so many times this year and so many times in these playoffs, we said, ‘Why not again today? It was a total team effort, every single guy here giving everything they’ve got. You need everybody when you get to Game 7. You’re not into the individual part of it. There’s always guys that score big goals, make big plays. But you need everybody in your lineup.