It was anything but pretty, but the Los Angeles Kings survived a strong push by the San Jose Sharks in the third period Tuesday to eke out a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals and advance to the conference finals for the second consecutive year.
Justin Williams scored both goals for the Kings, and Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots to help the Kings advance to the next round.
The win means that the Kings will either open the Western Conference Finals at home against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, or on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, depending on the outcome of the Game 7 between the two Central Division rivals on Wednesday night.
The pace of the game was very even-keeled in the first two periods of the game, with both teams taking turns in terms of having the majority of possession time. The first period was especially fast, although the 5-3 shot total in favor of the Sharks doesn’t necessarily reflect that. Both goaltenders looked very settled into their creases in that frame, and neither team was really able to generate quality scoring chances.
The second period was way different in that regard. Both teams started to generate some great possessions, and in this frame, it was the Kings who were able to strike first. On a tremendous play by the entire offense, the Kings established possession, crashed the net aggressively, and Justin Williams was able to pound in a rebound past San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
After the goal, the Sharks started to get some quality chances on their end, but it was Williams again who was able to capitalize on a Kings rush. After breaking up a long Sharks possession, LA broke out on a 3-on-2 break, and it was Anze Kopitar who fired a tape to tape pass to Williams in the corner, who then fired the puck past Niemi to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.
The third period was all Sharks, with San Jose dominating the SOG category 7-1 through the first eight minutes of the frame. That early push was highlighted by a slap shot fired by defenseman Dan Boyle that beat Quick, and the Sharks seemed to play with an improved confidence level with the decreased deficit.
That goal was the only one that the Sharks could muster, however. Despite the feverish pace the game took on, the Kings did a good job in the closing minutes of collapsing in on the net and preventing quality chances. Quick once again stood on his head throughout the closing minutes, including on a spectacular save on a doorstep rebound chance by Joe Pavelski.
After a late flurry of chances, the Kings were finally able to clear the puck from the zone, and streamers rained down from the rafters of Staples Center as the Kings won their sixth consecutive playoff series.
We will have plenty of coverage in the coming days on what went right and wrong for the Kings in this series, as well as a preview of the conference finals after their opponent is decided tomorrow.