Kings Beat Blackhawks in Game 7 Thriller, Advance to Stanley Cup Final

Martinez goal in overtime lifts Kings to Cup Final for second time in three seasons

The Los Angeles Kings have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. Alec Martinez picked up the overtime winner to send the Kings to their second Cup Final in three seasons. 

The Kings will open up the Final at home on Wednesday night at Staples Center when they welcome the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers to the West Coast. The Rangers won a 1-0 Game 6 victory over the Montreal Canadiens to clinch their berth in the Final for the first time in two decades. 

The game got off to a fast start as both teams tried to establish their game plans early, but it was the Blackhawks that got on the board first. After a lengthy possession in the offensive zone, Patrick Kane feathered a pass across the ice to Brandon Saad, who fired a shot off of Jonathan Quick’s arm and into the cage to give Chicago a 1-0 lead about five minutes into the game.

The Blackhawks continued to press the issue on offense after that goal, but they were unable to light the lamp again. Duncan Keith had a great chance from the slot, but his shot skips wide. Ben Smith also had a chance that he deflected just wide, and he collected his own rebound and put another shot on net, but Quick smothered the opportunity.

The constant pressure on Chicago’s side of the ice finally paid off as they got a power play goal a few minutes later. Brent Seabrook received a pass at the blue line after Kane got into the zone, and when Seabrook’s shot was deflected by Kane to the middle of the ice, Jonathan Toews was there to tap in the loose puck and putting Chicago up by a 2-0 score.

After those two goals, it seemed as though the Kings finally got their skates underneath them a bit, and they began to pepper Corey Crawford with shots. Tyler Toffoli fired a shot off the post after Johnny Oduya lost the puck in his skates, but the Kings’ forward rebounded nicely by picking up the primary assist on a Jeff Carter goal a few moments later. When Toffoli’s shot bounced into the air off of Crawford, Carter batted it into the goal, and when video review upheld the play, the Kings only trailed by a 2-1 margin.

In the blink of an eye, the Kings tied things up. This time it was Justin Williams doing the damage, as he collected the rebound on a shot that bounced off of Michal Rozsival in front, and he fired a snap shot past Crawford to tie things up at 2-2.

Just 12 seconds later, the Kings turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and the Blackhawks took the lead right back. Patrick Sharp carried the puck into the offensive zone, and when he put a shot toward the goal from the face-off circle, it bounced over Quick’s leg pad and into the net to give Chicago a 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission.

The Blackhawks got off to a dominant start in the period, preventing the Kings from getting a single shot on goal in the first seven minutes of the frame. The Hawks had some good possessions over that stretch, but they were unable to add onto their lead, and it ended up costing them.

About halfway through the period, the Kings established some good possession in the offensive zone, and when Dwight King’s shot toward the net was deflected by Michal Handzus, Toffoli picked it up and deposited it into the empty net to make it a 3-3 game.

As the period wore on, both teams had power play opportunities, but neither could convert. The Blackhawks had a good chance on a Keith shot from the point, but Quick was able to make the save and smother the puck to keep the game tied up. Kane also made a key play during a 4-on-4 stretch when Mike Richards tried to jump out on a breakaway, backchecking the puck carrier and forcing an awkward shot that didn’t find its way on net.

The Blackhawks got another power play late in the period, and this time they were able to convert. With Jake Muzzin screening Quick, Sharp got the puck near the blue line and fired a slap shot just inside the near post to give the Hawks a 4-3 lead after two periods.

The third period got started with both teams picking up quality chances, but the goaltenders and defenses stepped up in a big way. Crawford made a key save on Tanner Pearson on the rush to keep his team ahead, and Quick returned the favor at the other end by stoning a chance by Marcus Kruger. Alec Martinez also made a good play to break up a cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1 rush by Chicago, knocking Bryan Bickell's pass away. 

Finally, the Kings ended up breaking through with a goal with a little over seven minutes remaining in regulation. On a 3-on-2 rush, Dustin Brown fired a high shot that Crawford was able to stop, but the puck bounced right to Marian Gaborik, who calmly deposited the rebound into the net to tie things up at 4-4. 

Just before the end of regulation, the Hawks got a couple more good chances, but Quick made his biggest save of the game to force overtime. Andrew Shaw fired in a shot from the slot that Quick stopped, and he had to smother the rebound quickly before Kane could get at the loose puck. 

As the overtime got underway, both teams got their fair share of chances, but just under six minutes in, it was the Kings that ended up triumphing. Williams got the puck in the middle of the zone, and when his shot deflected off of Martinez's stick and Chicago defenseman Nick Leddy, it popped up over Crawford's shoulder and into the back of the net to send the Kings back to the Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. 

The Stanley Cup Final will begin on Wednesday night in Los Angeles as the Kings take on the New York Rangers. The game can be seen on NBC. 

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