Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Game 7 Story Continued…

May 28, 2013 vs San Jose Sharks
In 2011, the Kings looked primed to take the next step after having returned to the playoffs the year before after an 8-year absence. Then Anze Kopitar suffered an injury that kept him from finishing the season or playing in the playoffs. The Kings blew a 4-0 lead at Staples in Game 4 and ended up dropping a 6-game series without ever winning on home ice.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Kings have taken that next step and then some, rolling through the 2012 playoffs to win the Cup. They entered the second round as the defending Stanley Cup champions, having already disposed of the St. Louis Blues in an epic first round battle in which they came back to win four straight after dropping the first two games on the road. For their part, the Sharks were flying high after a playoff-opening sweep of the Northwest Division champion Vancouver Canucks.

Holding home ice advantage to begin a series for the first time in 21 years, the Kings jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, winning the opening pair at Staples Center 2-0 and 4-3, the latter game including a frantic last minute comeback in which they scored two power play goals in the finals 103 seconds to overcome a 3-2 deficit to win.

But when the series shifted to San Jose, the Sharks were able to suffocate the Kings' offense, squeaking out a pair of 2-1 wins, the first on a controversial power play goal at the start of overtime. In the second game, an early whistle cost the Kings what could have been the game-tying goal when Niemi got lucky that the refs weren't quite paying enough attention to where the puck was.

Back in L.A. for Game 5, Jonathan Quick put on another goaltending display worthy only of him, shutting out the Sharks for the second time in the series, 3-0.

With a chance to close the series out in Game 6, the Kings once again dropped a 2-1 decision at the Shark Tank as this year's series continued to be almost exactly opposite the 2011 affair when the home teams were almost incapable of winning.

Going into Game 7 there had been 16 previous series in NHL history that went the distance with the home team winning the first six games, most recently the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver. Home teams were .500 going in. The Kings had a 13-game home winning streak entering the game, dating back to the regular season, a franchise record.

Justin Williams and Jonathan Quick were the stars of the game as Quick made 25 saves and Williams scored a pair of second period goals to give the Kings a 2-0 lead that they carried into the final frame. At the other end, Niemi stopped innumerable great Kings chances including breakaways for Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner. Only a single screened slapshot by Dan Boyle beat Quick as the Kings held on for a 2-1 victory, sealing up a second consecutive trip to the Western Conference Finals after having made only one such trip in the previous 44 years.
All-Time Game 7 Record: 4-4 (2-1 at home)

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