Photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
“We won’t go quietly away.”
LA Kings head coach Darryl Sutter promised this after his team lost an overtime heartbreaker to the San Jose Sharks in Round 1 that put them in an 0-3 hole. But in keeping with his vow, Sutter coached his team to four straight victories and another place in the history books.
After dropping three straight games to the Anaheim Ducks, once again, the Los Angeles Kings proved that they’re a stubborn, resilient bunch who don’t rattle easily. In fact, they play best when it’s do-or-die. On Friday night, the Kings showed why they’re contenders with a complete, thorough and dominating win over the Ducks.
The Kings came out the gate flying. Three minutes in, Dustin Brown drew a holding penalty on Ben Lovejoy. With 18 seconds left to go in Lovejoy’s penalty, Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams struck. Some great cycling down low allowed Williams to capitalize on a rebound and open the scoring.
With six minutes left, Corey Perry blocked Drew Doughty‘s shot. Perry got a breakaway and Doughty followed, but couldn’t keep up. Just as Perry took the shot, his stick broke (it had actually fractured when he blocked the shot) and was awarded a penalty shot, much to Doughty’s unhappiness.
A minute later, Mike Richards scored what was the eventual game winning goal. He gained the zone with Dwight King following behind as a trailer. Gibson stopped King’s initial shot but couldn’t handle the rebound. With an extra effort to keep pushing forward, Richards chipped the puck over Gibson’s pad and into the net.
3-0 LA at first intermission.
The Kings picked up almost right where they left off. Two minutes in, Anze Kopitar‘s snap shot beat Gibson short side and ended his night. Jonas Hiller replaced the young rookie with the hope of at least stopping the bleeding.
Despite being up 4-0, the Kings were not content to sit back and manage the clock. They kept pushing forward, even as Anaheim pressed for a goal. At 14:08, Gaborik scored a power play goal to put the Kings up 5-0. Using Bryan Allen as a screen, Gaborik side stepped him and wristed a shot past Hiller.
The goal seemed to really stir the crowd inside the Honda Center as well the Ducks but it came so late, they were unable to sustain momentum for long.
Perry finally beat Quick during 4v4 play while Slava Voynov and Andrew Cogliano served matching minors. Jake Muzzin got caught puck watching as Ryan Getzlaf drew attention to himself, leaving Perry wide open for a perfect shot, just under the cross bar.
The Kings believe in themselves. Justin Williams appropriately described it as a “quiet arrogance.” Even down in the Sharks series, there was always a belief that they could get it done. Over the last three years they’ve displayed that they’re winners and won’t quit until the final horn sounds. With the same core that won the Stanley Cup in 2012, every player (at least in the media) radiates confidence that they can and they will get it done. They’ve experienced this sport’s ultimate glory and they want to achieve it again. With their third consecutive trip to the Western Conference Final, they are strong contenders that will be difficult for any team to beat.
The #fancystats suggested that the Kings were the better team, in spite of the teams’ regular season records. They also have a lot more experience than their southern counterparts and were able to lean on that. NBCSN showed an interesting graphic during the the game: as a collective group, the Kings have 57 games played experience in Game 7 with only four losses. The Ducks, on the other hand, only have 34 games of experience and 27 losses. Over the last three years, the Kings have played 52 postseason games (20 – 2012; 18 – 2013; 14 – 2014) while the Ducks have only played 20 games (0 – 2012; 7 – 2013; 13 – 2014). Anaheim has a few more young players in their current lineup than LA and the inexperience showed as mistakes proved costly.
The Kings will need to play more consistently in the next round if they hope to advance or at least win a few games. Jewels from the Crown has a Western Conference Final preview here and fellow The Pink Puck writer Carly Mullady has a Blackhawks-Kings series preview here.
Thank You, Teemu
Once the game finished, the two teams lined up for the traditional handshake and Teemu Selanne was mic’d up for it.
Beware of onion chopping ninjas you may get misty eyed.
The respect for Teemu Selanne is incredible and it was a fantastic gesture by the Kings to remain on the ice and tap their sticks in honor of the future Hall of Famer. Selanne has done a lot to grow the sport of hockey in the warm, sunny climate of Southern California and his dedication to the sport means a lot to people everywhere. He is universally loved and deservedly so with a long, illustrious career and the many accomplishments he has achieved. As a hockey fan in general, I wish him all the best in his future endeavors and I sincerely hope he sticks around So Cal a little longer.
Following the game, there was an outpouring of support for him on twitter.
— Joshua Wilson (@Brosephett) May 17, 2014
“@LAKings We’ll miss Teemu.Been an honor to watch him all these years.Truly a legend.” I’ll miss seeing the great8 out there&playin with him
— Dustin Penner (@Dustinpenner25) May 17, 2014
Even Jonathan Quick showed his appreciation for the legend.
— Jonathan Quick (@JonathanQuick32) May 17, 2014
From the bottom of all of our hearts, thank you, Teemu.