Kings eliminate Ducks, face Blackhawks next
May 17, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
NHL PRESS RELEASE
ANAHEIM -- Jonathan Quick denied Corey Perry on a breakaway with such nonchalance he might as well have been sitting on his living room couch. It was about halfway through Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round series, and the play summed up the difference between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings' poise is as strong as a battleship, and the Ducks bounced off it like BBs on Friday in L.A.'s 6-2 win at Honda Center. Los Angeles advanced to its third straight conference final and second straight against the Chicago Blackhawks. Game 1 is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, RDS).
"I've said multiple times about this group we have is the inner arrogance and the quiet confidence, whatever you want to call it, that's in this dressing room," forward Justin Williams said. "I look around and I trust that everyone's going to do their job and get it done. Nobody has to be great. Just everybody has to be good. We were all good tonight."
The highly anticipated state title game was decided in an opening 10-minute, three-goal blitz by the Kings that began with yet another clutch goal by Williams, who tied Wayne Gretzky for second all-time with his sixth career Game 7 goal.
After Los Angeles chased 20-year-old rookie goalie John Gibson on Anze Kopitar's first goal of the series, giving L.A. a 4-0 lead, Kings fans chanted "This is our house!" It was appropriate after the Kings won three of four games at Honda Center and improved to 6-0 in elimination games in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It seems like we play our best hockey when our backs are against the wall," Kopitar said. "For some reason we play with a sense of urgency and desperation mixed together.
"I don't think anybody expected it to be a high-scoring game. 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."
Anaheim was motivated all season to make up for its disappointing Game 7 defeat against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference quarterfinals last spring, also at home. Instead, the Ducks will face another summer of doubt and guilt that was unfitting of the final game for 43-year-old Teemu Selanne.
"It was very disappointing," Selanne said. "I knew it was either going to be an unbelievable party or disappointment. This time it wasn't the party. It's very disappointing. It's a funny game. We had our chances. We just couldn't take advantage of them. That's the way it goes."
The crowd rose to recognize Selanne when he came out for his final shift with 1:52 left, and the biggest ovation of the night came as he skated over to the bench area after the handshake line as the entire Kings team tapped their sticks in a classy gesture.
It was a bittersweet moment for Anaheim, which has a bright future with its prospects but its veteran core will take a hit without Selanne and possibly 39-year-old Saku Koivu, who said he will "get away from the game for a couple of weeks and really take a good careful look" at his future.
In the immediate aftermath it was up to captain Ryan Getzlaf to be the scarred face of the Ducks.
"This whole thing, it's a bitter pill," Getzlaf said. "To come out and let them get that lead … I lay a lot of that on our shoulders. Things that we need to do differently. Nerves got us, I think, a little bit. Pucks were bouncing around a little bit and they were capitalizing. When they come out with a 3-0 lead, you're probably not going to beat a team like the Kings."
Williams' goal was an ominous sign for Anaheim because the team that scored first had won each of the previous six games. Any notion that that trend would change was quickly nullified by ensuing goals by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
Williams nudged his second attempt across the goal line from the crease on the power play at 4:30 of the first period. Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler tried to rim the puck around but it didn't get out, and Richards put it on net for Williams, who has six goals and six assists in six career Game 7s wins (6-0).
"I don't know how he does it," Kopitar said. "I don't know if he eats anything different before the game. He's a leader on the team. [General manager] Dean [Lombardi] got him for a reason."
Carter made it 2-0 when he finished a breakaway with one of his signature backhands at 8:48 after he muscled past Hampus Lindholm in the neutral zone. Richards sent Anaheim tumbling further with his second goal of the playoffs at 15:12 for a 3-0 lead. Richards dropped a pass to Dwight King and then went to the net to pop in the rebound that Gibson couldn't control.
That made it three goals allowed on nine shots against Gibson, who didn't have his best game but wasn't helped by his skaters either.
"That first period was like men against boys, quite frankly," said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, who fell to 1-5 in Game 7s. "They were bigger, stronger faster, seemed more determined, while we were on our heels. Everything we said we that wanted not to do, we did.
"We didn't do the things we wanted to do. But I want to give the L.A. Kings a little bit of credit here. They played like Stanley Cup champions. They didn't play like that in the first period like in any of the other six games. I think we were individually and collectively blown away by what they were doing. they were passing us individually … like we were standing still and they were driving by us."
Trailing 2-0, the Ducks might have changed the complexion of the game on a penalty shot awarded to Perry at 14:08, but Quick poke-checked away his attempt.
Perry and Quick chirped all night, and Quick probably wasn't wishing Perry a happy 29th birthday. The 2011 Hart Trophy winner scored early in the third period to make it 5-2, but he was on the ice for three of the Kings' goals -- as was Getzlaf, who lost 17 of 25 faceoffs and 31 of 45 in Games 6-7.
On the other side were Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, who scored his NHL-leading ninth goal of the playoffs, on the power play at 13:08 of the second period. Gaborik and Kopitar combined for seven goals and 18 points in the series.
Gaborik, Richards and Williams are 6-0 in Game 7s. Kopitar is 3-0.
"Those guys lead the charge," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "There's no question. It's those players like that have played in a lot of Game 7s or made the difference in Game 7s. They lead the charge and set the tone. [Williams is] a perfect example."
The Kings outshot the Ducks 16-6 in the first period, and Anaheim's only highlights were big hits by Getzlaf, Bryan Allen and Devante Smith-Pelly. Getzlaf leveled Kyle Clifford at the boards, but Clifford got the puck out to trigger Richards' goal just before the hit.