Western Semi Final, Game 7: Kings Win 2-1, LA wins series 4-3
LOS ANGELES – Fans of both teams had to wait 48 excruciating hours for Game 7. It was simple: win or go home. Given the importance of this rivalry, neither team wanted to fall to the other – so when the puck dropped for the deciding game of the Western Semi Final on Tuesday night, all bets were off.
The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks entered the seventh game of their series with the home team winning each game. Surely, that fell into Los Angeles’s favour given that the finale was played at Staples Center. But the Kings simply were not content to let recent history dictate the outcome of the game and the series.
After a scoreless first period where San Jose outshot the Kings by a 5-3 margin, anxiety was still high. Early in the second, though, San Jose’s defenseman-turned-forward Brent Burns was called for interference and the Kings made him pay. At the 4:11 mark of the middle frame, Justin Williams joined the crowd batting away at a loose puck and jammed it home to open the scoring for the home side. After failing to register a goal in his last eight games, Williams could not have picked a better time to snap out of such a funk.
But the Kings (nor Williams) were done there. Just under three minutes later, Number 14 one-timed a feed from Anze Kopitar and wristed it stick side past Antti Niemi to put Los Angeles up by a pair and send Staples Center into a frenzy. The goal was Justin Williams’ fifth-career Game 7 goal as the last tally he scored in a seventh game was the empty-netter that sealed his Carolina Hurricanes‘ Stanley Cup win in 2006.
In addition to Williams’ two goals, Slava Voynov continued his success on home ice as he assisted on both tallies.
But with a semi-comfortable lead, the Kings knew that there was still plenty of hockey to be played and with just over five minutes into the third, Dan Boyle slapped a point shot that fooled Jonathan Quick to pull the Sharks to within a goal. It seemed as though the Kings had taken their foot off the gas as San Jose was mounting a comeback. Suddenly, we had an exciting game on our hands.
While Antti Niemi was keeping his team in the game with a number of key saves, however, Jonathan Quick was one better, making a plethora of timely saves, frustrating a Sharks team that had that outshot the Kings 14-4 in the third.
San Jose pulled Niemi for a sixth skater late but despite a late rally, the boys from Northern California simply could not tie as the Staples Faithful left out a collective sigh of relief as their team had earned (and I emphasize “earned”) a spot in the Western Final for the second-consecutive year. With the win, the Kings also improve to 4-3 in Game 7s and pick up their first win in the decisive game since the 1993 Conference Final.
This was one heck of a series that involved injuries, suspensions, timely goals, timely saves and just a lot of hostility. Since it went the distance, fans on either side really couldn’t ask for much more than how it turned out. But the Los Angeles Kings, thanks to the clutch play of Justin Williams and Jonathan Quick, are back in the NHL‘s Round of Four again and will await the winner of the Detroit/Chicago matchup – a series which its Game 7 will be played tomorrow night.
Such a wild night, a wild series could not have ended any better. Don’t you agree?