Two Game Sevens. Two three-game losing streaks. Two higher-seeded California rivals. And two wins. The Los Angeles Kings have done it again.
LA went into the Honda Center and scored the first five goals on the Anaheim Ducks, and when the dust finally cleared, the Kings had a 6-2 win and yet another berth in the Western Conference Finals. And in the first year of realignment, the Kings have something more: bragging rights in the state of California.
The Los Angeles Kings had earned three narrow victories in this series. This win was... not narrow. As so often happens, the game's first power play came thanks to Dustin Brown, who was hooked/held by Ben Lovejoy entering the zone. The Kings moved the puck really well, but Anze Kopitar was denied on a good setup from Drew Doughty, and the second PP unit took their turn. Darryl Sutter wisely put Justin Williams on the ice, and when Brown's check on Saku Koivu kept the puck in the zone, Williams put home a rebound of a Slava Voynov shot. Williams had a goal and an assist tonight, which is literally an average Game 7 for him.
The Kings were off and running, and the Kings' second line generated a second goal four minutes later. Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Marian Gaborik nullified the Ducks' first line in the offensive zone. Jake Muzzin tapped out the puck to Toffoli, who tipped it across to Gaborik, who poked it forward to Carter. Carter did all the work, muscling past Hampus Lindholm to get himself a breakaway, and went to his backhand. However, Carter chose to elevate the puck instead of using his usual can-opener move, and it worked as he beat John Gibson. It'd get worse for Gibson.
However, there was the small matter of a Corey Perry penalty shot to deal with first. Perry blocked a Doughty shot with his stick, cracking the stick and sending the puck the other way. Perry had a step on Doughty, and when Doughty's stick tried to prevent Perry from getting a shot, the stick snapped and the penalty shot was awarded. An unfortunate break (LITERALLY!) for LA, but Jonathan Quick nonchalantly poke-checked Perry on the penalty shot. Two minutes later, Kyle Clifford made a lead pass while getting crushed by Ryan Getzlaf, and Mike Richards tapped in a rebound of Dwight King's shot to make it 3-0. Slava Voynov and Tyler Toffoli both hit the post in the final two minutes of the period, and LA rolled into the first intermission.
The first half of the second period was essentially a duel between Corey Perry and Jonathan Quick, with the failed penalty shot clearly lingering in both players' minds. Perry and Alec Martinez collided with Quick early on, and when Perry's skate glanced into Quick's helmet later as Quick covered the puck, the tension boiled over. Perry then took a boarding penalty just four seconds into an Anaheim power play, and to top it off, he was stopped by Quick on a breakaway soon after leading the box. (Quick gave him a tap as he skated back the other way, as if to say, "Nice try, buddy.") Before any of that, though, Anze Kopitar beat John Gibson on an unscreened wrister from the circle. It was a tougher version of Trevor Lewis' Game 6 goal, but it was the kind of shot Gibson had been stopping earlier in the series. It was an unfortunate end to an impressive debut series, as Jonas Hiller took over from that point.
A brilliant power play goal 14:08 into the second essentially put the game to bed. In the order in which they touched the puck: Doughty, Carter, Doughty, Gaborik, Martinez, Kopitar, Gaborik, net. Kyle Palmieri scored with 2:58 remaining in the second on a quick one-timer from the side of the net, but as the teams went to the locker room, we were still thinking about this:
Perry did finally get his goal in the third, as Ryan Getzlaf found him breaking to the net and Perry put a shot up high past Quick to make it 5-2. Getzlaf had a golden chance literally five seconds later as the Ducks came right back down the ice, but Quick made a huge save with his right arm. That save became even... huger(?)... when Kyle Palmieri went to the box for a high elbow on Drew Doughty. Though LA never threatened on that power play, it helped turn down Anaheim's pressure. Tanner Pearson closed out the scoring on the cake for the second straight series, tapping in a perfect feed from Carter. It was a fitting end for Pearson, who was one of the best players on the ice tonight; it was also a fitting end for the Kings, who played a fantastic game tonight.
The series ended with a relaxed final minute, handshakes, and a handful of standing ovations for the retiring Teemu Selanne. LA has most definitely been here before; the celebration was nearly indistinguishable from a normal regular season victory, and they hung around to give Selanne his due before heading back to the locker room. It was a cool moment to close out a showcase of California hockey, and it gave the Kings a chance to enjoy the fruits of a hard-fought series.
Next up? Chicago. Bring it.