lundi 2 juin 2014

Kings stun Hawks in OT, advance to Stanley Cup final #hawks #kings #hockey #icehockey #playoffs

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The Cockroaches live.

They looked dead enough, down 2-0 early to a Chicago team riding a wave of United Center emotion, but the Los Angeles Kings --- the toughest out in hockey --- rallied from behind three times, and became the first team in NHL history to win three Games 7 on the road in the same playoff year Sunday night, beating the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime.

It was a shocking end to a series that the Kings once controlled then seemed to have lost, giving up all momentum to the Hawks in Games 5 and 6.

But they simply refused to go away.

Someone calculated that the players in L.A.'s lineup entered Sunday's series finale with a combined Game 7 record of 64-2. They needed every ounce of that savvy and grit, and a little bit of luck, to get past the defending champions.

In the end, it was an innocent-looking wrist shot from the point by Alec Martinez that hit two players --- almost certainly teammate Tyler Toffoli, then Chicago defenceman Nick Leddy's --- before eluding goalie Corey Crawford at 5:47 of overtime.

It was the first Game 7 overtime in a conference final since 1994, when Stephane Matteau was the hero for the New York Rangers.

Martinez was still being credited with the goal long after the game, but whoever got it, it was fittingly a pinballing puck that produced the winner, after an evening of wild, weird bounces accounted for almost every one of the goals.

"It's part of the game," said Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. "The puck was bouncing both ways. We got a few, they got a few."

"We had an opportunity in Game 5 in overtime. That would have been a little easier. But we knew they weren't going down easily. We were fortunate to get out of it. Now we have to get our legs under us."

After three seven-game marathons, it might be tough to do.

"We just have to reset again," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "We did it during the regular season. We did it before the Olympics. We did it after the Olympics. We did it before the playoffs started. We did it after Game 7 of the first round, second round. We just have to do it again. Certainly it's a challenge. You play a fresh team."

The Kings return home to face the Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday at Staples Centre.

"Great goaltender, great defence, great forwards, great special teams," Sutter said, asked what he knew about the Rangers.

"So, basically you have no chance?" said a reporter.

"Yup. We're up against it again," he said, with the smallest of smiles.

The track meet the Kings said they could not afford to get into with Chicago commenced almost as soon as the puck dropped.

It began the way Game 6 ended, with the highly flammable Patrick Kane dangling and the Kings chasing. Kane set up Brandon Saad from behind the net with a pass out the far side that Saad hammered home before Jonathan Quick could get across.

Then, as these things go, Kane was hit in the back of the legs by Brent Seabrook's shot and the puck caromed right to Jonathan Toews for an open-net tap-in and a 2-0 lead on the power play. It was Kane's ninth point in three games.

But these were, after all, the Kings, and they began to get their licks in from about the time Toffoli hit the goalpost in the 16th minute. In a 51-second stretch, Crawford failed to handle a Dustin Brown shot from the wing and Jeff Carter batted the high rebound out of the air to bring L.A. within one, and Justin Williams --- Mr. Game 7 himself --- had a blocked shot land right on his stick in the slot and scored his seventh Game 7 goal to tie it.

A mere 12 seconds later, a wide-angle shot by Chicago's Patrick Sharp hit Drew Doughty's stick and took a bizarre high bounce over Quick's pad to restore the Hawks' lead.

Quick stopped four shots, and three got past him.

And that was just the first period.

The Kings had just about nothing going on in the second - they were outshot 16-4 --- but put away one of their few chances when Michal Handzus's attempted block of Matt Greene's point shot bounced straight onto Toffoli's stick for another tap-in, and another tie.

Sharp again gave Chicago the lead, scoring through a screen from the point after Quick lost his stick with two minutes left.

But if the series was too good not to have a Game 7, then Game 7 was just too wild and unpredictable not to have overtime. So of course, it did.

Crawford couldn't capture another fairly harmless wrist shot by Brown, and all the Hawks ignored the playoffs' leading goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, who cruised through the crease and deposited the puck into the net with 7:17 left to make it 4-4.

And somehow, thanks mostly to a couple of ninja-like saves by Quick, one of them on Andrew Shaw with 5.3 seconds left in regulation, the Kings got it into extra time.

There were 51 goals scored in the series, and the Kings gave up 23. They surrendered only 30 in their entire 20-game Stanley Cup run in 2012.

But they're at 21 games and still kicking.

"This was probably the most emotional seven games I've ever played, because of how games were won and lost and series leads back and forth," said Brown, the Kings' captain .

"I mean you have the last two Stanley cup champions and a great result for the NHL because the hockey was good. I mean it was sloppy but it was exciting.

"I think last year they smacked us around. Five games but it could have been four. I think we are a better team this year and evenly matched. I don't think it was revenge. It's weird in the sense that we played them back to back years but I think the respect on each side is very high."

"I don't know if that game shows that it's tough to repeat as a champion," said Sharp. "I think everybody knows it's tough to win a Stanley Cup, whether you won it the previous year or not. Tonight was two good teams with a lot of guys who've gone the distance and won Stanley Cups before. Both sides had that experience and it was a pretty entertaining game."

"That was an amazing series, it really was," said Doughty, the best player in the series. "It's even better that we won it, obviously, but that was just a hard fought battle out there. Both teams played pretty honest, there wasn't any diving, there wasn't guys cheating. It was just an honest series, battles in the corners, a lot of goals. There was everything in this series. It was a lot of fun. I hope the next series can feel the same way."