The Los Angeles Kings in Game Seven: A History Lesson

Wayne Gretzky: the Kings' most prominent Game 7 hero. Who's it gonna be tonight? - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Looking back at the seven Game Sevens (and three other winner-take-all games) in the history of the Los Angeles Kings. LA adds another chapter tonight, as they face off against the San Jose Sharks at Staples.

April 18, 1968: The Kings' first Game 7 was also in their first season in the NHL. The Kings faced the Minnesota North Stars in the first playoff series in franchise history and jumped out to a 2-0 series lead behind the goaltending of future Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk. But the North Stars fought back, and a Game 6 overtime defeat in Minnesota set the stage for Game 7 in Los Angeles. Minnesota overwhelmed the all-time shutout leader and the Kings, 9–4, to advance.

April 13, 1969: The Kings returned to the playoffs the following season and again faced a Game 7 in the first round. But in the first playoff Battle of California EVER, the Kings came out on top by beating the Oakland Seals 5-3 on the road in the deciding game. It was the first series win in franchise history, and though the St. Louis Blues would sweep the Kings in the semifinals, surely a Stanley Cup Finals berth wasn't far away! (It was.)

April 11, 1975: The third winner-take-all game in Kings' history was actually a Game 3. The NHL had undergone realignment with new expansion teams, and the playoffs now featured a best-of-3 opening round. LA had set a franchise record with 105 points (it still stands, by the way), and they were favored to defeat the Maple Leafs; however, they lost Game 2 in overtime in Toronto to set up a Game 3 the very next day in LA. Based on the Kings' history with back-to-back contests, you know what happened: Toronto won 2-1, eliminating the Kings.

April 25, 1976: The Kings rebounded in 1976 by winning their best-of-three opening series against the Atlanta Flames, then faced the favored Boston Bruins in the second round. The Kings faced elimination in Game 6 at the Forum, but Butch Goring was carried off the ice by his teammates after scoring one of the most famous goals in early Kings history to send the series to Game 7.

Unfortunately, Boston would win Game 7, 3-0.

April 9, 1977: For the third straight season, the Kings played a winner-take-all game in the playoffs, and they finally got a win after two consecutive defeats. LA took down the Atlanta Flames 4-2 in Game 3 of the opening round to advance, behind a hat trick by playoff hero Butch Goring. After the game, he said:

It was big men against little men and this time the little men won. We worked the whole season for the home ice advantage and fortunately we had it and it paid off. We worked hard and deserved the game. We played better than they did.

April 13, 1982: The Kings' first-round series against the heavily favored Edmonton Oilers is remembered for the Miracle on Manchester in Game 3, but many forget that the Oilers won the ensuing Game 4 to send the series to a decisive fifth game. The Kings made sure that the Miracle on Manchester would be more than just a footnote, taking down the Oilers 7-4 in Edmonton in Game 5 to advance to Round 2. There, they would lose to the Vancouver Canucks; the Kings would get revenge against Vancouver in 1991 and 1993 (and after a 2010 first-round defeat, they'd make up for it in 2012).

April 15, 1989: Former Oiler Wayne Gretzky and unexpected playoff hero Chris Kontos helped the Kings win the final Game 7 at the old Great Western Forum, defeating the Oilers 6-3. Kontos scored his eighth goal of the series, and Bernie Nicholls scored the game-winner on a 5-on-3 in the second period. Tonight, of course, will be the first Game 7 in Los Angeles since that triumph.

May 29, 1993: It's the most famous Game 7 in Los Angeles Kings history. After a controversial Game 6 overtime winner in LA sent the Campbell Conference Finals to Game 7, Wayne Gretzky put the team on his back and took the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Finals. Gretzky's hat trick helped LA defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4, setting the stage for a Stanley Cup Finals matchup with Montreal. The impending loss was devastating, but Gretzky's Game 7 performance still shines.

May 9, 2001: After the Kings took down the Detroit Red Wings in a memorable first-round series, LA faced Ray Bourque and the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2. The Kings fought back from 3-1 down to force Game 7, thanks to a Felix Potvin shutout in Game 5 and a Glen Murray overtime winner in Game 6. The seventh-seeded Kings finally succumbed to the Avs in the final game, losing 5-1 as Colorado would go on to win the Cup.

April 29, 2002: The underdog Kings once again pushed the Avalanche to the limit the following year, forcing a Game 7 in the first round thanks to wins in Games 5 and 6 behind Felix Potvin. And once again, the Avs dominated in Denver, sending the Kings home with a 4-0 win. The Kings would not return to the playoffs until 2010, and since then, they have not faced a Game 7.

Until tonight. At 6:00 PM, the Kings will play the first Game 7 in the history of the Staples Center. The Kings have been dominant at home, and as Goring said back in 1977, they worked all year and won a crucial game at the end of the season to ensure that this deciding game would be in Los Angeles. Let's see if it pays off.

(Thanks to the Kings website's History page for the help and the Goring quote. Feel free to explore!)

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