Kings take down Blackhawks 5-4 in OT
CHICAGO -- After one of the best playoff series the NHL has seen in a long time, it all came down to one shot -- and a fluky shot at that.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez's slap shot at 5:47 of overtime, from just inside the blue line, bounced off Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy's shoulder and into the net, giving the Kings a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the deciding Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday at the United Center.
The Kings now advance to their second Stanley Cup finals in three seasons and will face the New York Rangers.
Los Angeles, which had opened a 3-1 lead in the series, finally stopped Chicago's two-game winning streak that had tied the series.
The Kings tied the game at 4 at 12:43 of the third period when Los Angeles right winger Marian Gaborik sank a backhander past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford. It was Gaborik's team-high 12th goal of the playoffs.
The goal closed the scoring of an up-and-down regulation 60 minutes that saw the Blackhawks jump out to a 2-0 lead, then let the Kings equalize before going back up 3-2 just 12 seconds later. The Kings then battled to back to a 3-3 tie before the Blackhawks went up 4-3 heading into the third.
The game epitomized the up-and-down series between the past two Stanley Cup champions.
After a shaky first period where he allowed three goals on just seven shots, Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 37 of Chicago's 41 shots in the victory.
Crawford stopped 27 of the Kings 32 shots in the loss.
The Blackhawks' Brandon Saad opened the scoring just 5:06 into the game when center Andrew Shaw and right winger Patrick Kane got bottled up around Quick and found the left winger for a quick outlet. Saad stuffed the puck past Quick to score his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Just over six minutes later, Chicago made it 2-0 when defenseman Brent Seabrook put a pass through the crease that Kane reached behind his body to collect before backhanding it to team captain and center Jonathan Toews, who sank his ninth goal of the playoffs at 11:24.
Los Angeles scored at 16:31 of the first period when center Jeff Carter tallied his ninth goal of the playoffs, swatting a rebound out of the air past Crawford to make it 2-1.
The play was reviewed to make sure Carter's stick wasn't above the crossbar, but it was ruled a good goal.
The Kings tied the game at 17:22 of the first period on right winger Justin Williams' seventh goal of the playoffs.
But the Blackhawks came right back 12 seconds later on forward Patrick Sharp's fourth goal of the playoffs, putting Chicago back ahead 3-2.
It became a brand new game at 10:31 of the second period when Kings center Tyler Toffoli scored his seventh goal off a give-and-go from defenseman Matt Greene, tying it at 3-all.
Sharp then scored his second goal of the game at 18:25 of the second period on the power play, putting Chicago back ahead 4-3 heading into the deciding third period.
Game 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final are Wednesday and Saturday in Los Angeles before moving to New York for Game 3 on June 9 and Game 4 on June 11.
NOTES: Attendance was a season-high 22,315. ... Prior to scoring two goals Sunday, Chicago F Patrick Sharp has been a marked anomaly in the playoffs. He led the team in goal scoring in the regular season but had just three in the first 18 playoff games. Nonetheless, Sharp came into the game tied for sixth in team history for most playoff goals (35). He is now in fifth with 37. ... Chicago is now 9-3 in its last 12 games when facing elimination, dating back to 2011. ... Chicago's Joel Quenneville came into the game seeking his 100th career playoff win as an NHL head coach. He is still stuck at 99. ... The Kings are 6-11 all-time in the playoffs against Chicago, and 7-4 all-time in Game 7 playoff matches. They are the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s on the road in one playoff year to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.