Kings cook Ducks' goose in Game 7
Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12) celebrates with teammates Drew Doughty (8) , Alec Martinez (27) , Jeff Carter (77) and Anze Kopitar (11) after scoring a goal against the Ducks during second period action in Game 7 of their second round playoff series in Anaheim on Friday, may 16, 2014. (Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports)
It didn’t live up to the hype, but to the Los Angeles Kings, it didn’t matter.
Having split the previous six games, scoring an identical number of goals in the process, the Kings turned a drama into a tragedy Friday, beating the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal.
With the win, the Kings advance to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference final, starting Sunday in the Windy City.
“It seems like we play our best hockey when our backs are against the wall,” said Kings centre Anze Kopitar. “For some reason, we play with a sense of urgency and desperation mixed together.”
Justin Williams, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson scored for the Kings, who have won all six games when facing elimination this post season.
Williams, Gaborik and Richards are also a perfect 6-0 in career Game 7s.
If there were any assurances going into Friday’s Game 7, it was that Williams would get on the scoresheet. The Kings winger has played in six deciding games, scoring six goals and adding six assists in them. Williams hadn’t scored a goal in the entire series prior to Friday.
He added an assist in the third period to go with his Game 7 goal.
“I’m proud of my numbers in Game 7,” said Williams. “I think the one I’m most proud of, is the 6-0. We have a lot of guys on our team that have had success in Game 7 as well.”
Kyle Palmieri and Corey Perry scored for the Ducks, who had won three straight games giving them two knockout shots on the Kings.
The 2012 Stanley Cup champions, however, are proving tough to finish off in this year’s playoffs.
Jonathan Quick made 25 saves for Los Angeles, while John Gibson stopped 13 shots for the Ducks before getting pulled early in the second period.
“Right now, it's a bitter pill to swallow, the way we lost that game,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “But we're going to get over it. First period was men against boys, quite frankly. They were bigger, stronger, faster and seemed more determined. We were on our heels. Everything we said we didn't want to do, we did. We get behind the 8-ball and all of a sudden we get mad, whether it's against the officials. But the time we started playing well again in the second, Quick was there to make the save when they needed it.”
Having been stymied by Gibson in a pair of losses, Los Angeles got to the goaltender in Game 6, before overwhelming him in Game 7.
“I don’t think anybody expected it to be as high-scoring a game,” said Kopitar. “But we got on a roll and we took off after Justin’s goal. We felt pretty good, we know that this would have to be our best game of the series and I think it was.”
Williams opened the scoring four and-a-half minutes into the game, getting to a rebound in front, which Gibson was unable to control.
Just over four minutes later, Carter increased the Kings’ lead, displaying impressive breakaway speed to get away from Ducks defenceman Hampus Lindholm.
Perry had a chance to pull one back for the Ducks six minutes from the end of the period, but could not convert on a penalty shot.
Richards added salt into the wound, scoring just over a minute after Perry’s missed attempt. The Kings centre jumped on a juicy rebound after Gibson had turned away Dwight King in front.
Early in the second, Kopitar put the Kings up 4-0, chasing Gibson in the process. Kopitar found some room in the slot and snapped a shot that found the short side.
Jonas Hiller, twice passed over in the series for rookies, entered the game in relief and was beaten by Gaborik six minutes from the end of the period.
Palmieri pulled one back for the Ducks before the end of the period, as his shot managed to squeeze by Quick’s pad and the goal post.
In the third, the Ducks added another as Perry was able to beat Quick off a feed from Ryan Getzlaf.
Apart from being stopped on a penalty shot, Perry had also been turned away by Quick on a breakaway in the second period.
The Ducks generated a number of chances to get a third, which would have made things interesting and probably led to Miracle on Manchester references.
However, Pearson converted a pass from Carter on a two-on-one rush to remove any doubt in the outcome.
“I’m proud of the way the our guys played,” said Williams. “We certainly wanted to score first in the game, but if we didn’t, we knew it wasn’t going to be the be-end, end-all. It’s nice to get, but it’s more important to get the win.”