Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) – Alec Martinez scored the winning goal at 5:47 of overtime as the Los Angeles Kings punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals with a 5-4 win against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday night.
Justin Williams fought the puck into the Chicago end down the right wing and got it deep before picking it up behind the net. He then sent a pass from the left corner boards to the point for Martinez, who flicked a shot on net that hit Chicago’s Nick Leddy before floating in past Corey Crawford for the win.
Los Angeles will host the New York Rangers in Game 1 on Wednesday when the Stanley Cup Finals begin.
The Kings held a 3-1 lead in this series before dropping the next two games to force the deciding contest. They faced a 2-0 hole early in this one but rallied to become the first team to ever win three Game 7s on the road in a single playoff campaign. The Kings beat the Sharks in the first round as they became the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 hole, then won Games 6 and 7 against the Ducks to win their semifinal round matchup.
“We faced a lot of adversity in this game,” said Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter. “We were down early and gave up a lot of power plays. We just kind of stuck with it. I said at the beginning that this was going to be a great series.”
The series win exacted a measure of revenge for the Kings, as they were downed by the Blackhawks in five games in last year’s conference finals.
Los Angeles will be shooting for its second Cup championship in the past three years, as the team won its first-ever title in 2012 with a six-game victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings will take on a New York team that is back in the Cup Finals for the first time since winning it all in 1994. New York defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Williams continues to own Game 7s in his career, as he now has seven goals and seven assists in those contests. Posting a goal and an assist in this game, he tied Glenn Anderson for most goals in Game 7s, and passed Doug Gilmour for most points. His teams are 7-0 in Game 7s.
“This is three-quarters of the way, we still have a big challenge ahead of us,” said Williams.
Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, while Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter also scored for the Kings, who got 37 saves from Jonathan Quick, including 18 in the third period and overtime.
Patrick Sharp scored twice, Brandon Saad added a goal and an assist, while Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, who failed in their bid for a second straight Cup championship.
“We finally have to admit to ourselves that the season is over and it’s not a good feeling,” said Toews. “We thought we fought real hard for this one and it’s tough, this is going to be a hard one to get over.”
Crawford allowed all five goals on 32 shots in the loss.
“We had some looks, had some chances, but it was one of those goals that was just tough luck,” said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. “Things were a little more open in this series and we were productive, but we didn’t keep it out of our net. It’s a tough thing to do to win a Cup.”
The Blackhawks jumped on top just 5:06 into the game as Patrick Kane sent a quick pass from behind the left side of the net to the right side where Saad’s sharp-angle one-timer snuck in past Quick.
Just 3 1/2 minutes later, it was a 2-0 game thanks to a Chicago power-play goal. Kane skated through the middle and dished the puck over to the right wing for Brent Seabrook, who threw a shot on net that Kane deflected. The puck went to the left side and Toews had an open net for his ninth of the playoffs.
Los Angeles, though, scored a pair of goals less than a minute apart later in the first to tie the game.
A turnover in the Chicago end went the other way and Dustin Brown fired a wrister on net from the left wing that Crawford stopped, but Carter whacked the rebound in out of the air. The goal was reviewed to see if Carter’s stick was above the crossbar when he made contact, but it was ruled a good goal and a 2-1 game with 3:29 to play.
It took 51 seconds for the Kings to get their next goal, as Slava Voynov’s shot from the right point was blocked by a Blackhawk in front of the net, but Williams was there to one-time the puck in.
However, Chicago took the lead back 12 seconds later when Sharp threw a shot on net from the right wing that saw the puck bounce in front of Quick and hop over his stick for a 3-2 lead.
The Kings caught another lucky break to tie the game after Matt Greene’s right point shot was blocked, with the puck going to the left and Toffoli having a wide open net for his seventh of the playoffs just past the midway point of the second.
Chicago skated 5-on-3 for 47 seconds later in the frame, but was unable to break the tie.
However, they did score on the power play a bit later as a holding call to Trevor Lewis gave Chicago its fifth advantage of the game, and Sharp’s fifth of the playoffs gave the team a 4-3 lead.
Quick had lost his stick on a sequence in front and Chicago worked the puck back to the high slot. Saad sent it over to his right and Sharp fired a shot on net that nicked off the left arm of Jake Muzzin and found the right corner with 1:35 to play in the second.
The Kings tied the game with 7:17 to play in regulation. Brown threw a shot on net from the top of the right circle on the fly that Crawford was unable to handle. Gaborik was at the right side to backhand the rebound in off of Crawford for his NHL-leading 12th goal of the playoffs.
Quick, who made 13 saves in the third period, kept the game from being decided in the final seconds when he was able to cover up an Andrew Shaw shot from the left wing with Kane at the right side looking for a rebound.
This was the first overtime Game 7 in the conference finals since 1994, when the Rangers defeated the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals … Los Angeles improved to 7-0 in elimination games this postseason … The Blackhawks were 13-0 over the past two playoffs in Games 5, 6 and 7 of a series … Los Angeles has 37 wins in the playoffs since the start of the 2012 postseason … It’s the third time the Kings are in the Cup Finals, with the other coming in 1993 when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games … Los Angeles forward Anze Kopitar had an assist in the game and he leads the postseason with 24 points. Carter is second with 22, Gaborik is fourth with 19 and Williams fifth with 18 … This was just the third postseason matchup between Chicago and Los Angeles, with the Blackhawks winning the previous two … The Kings/Rangers series will be the first Los Angeles/New York City championship matchup since the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the New York Yankees in the World Series in 1981.