In the Los Angeles Kings' first-round series, a seventh game felt like a given before the series, but after the way the series began, everyone was stunned to see it happen.
In the second round, not too many thought we'd get to seven, but after the way the series began, it's no surprise that we're here now.
The message is still the same, though: win. The Kings took down the Anaheim Ducks with their best overall game of the series to force a second straight Game 7.
Los Angeles started the game with a seemingly endless succession of offensive-zone faceoffs, as John Gibson kept freezing the puck and the Kings kept bringing it back to his area. And after a Ducks power play gave the Anaheim defense a brief respite, LA brought it right back down and took the lead 8:16 in. Drew Doughty kept the puck in at the point and fed to Marian Gaborik, whose pass was tipped but still got to Anze Kopitar . Kopitar casually backhanded a pass across the slot past Bryan Allen to an open Jake Muzzin, who slapped the puck off Gibson and in. More points for Gaborik and Kopitar, and a huge opening goal for a guy who had a rough Game 5. The Kings had additional chances as well, with Jeff Carter narrowly missing a second goal and Gibson's sloppy puck play nearly gifting them one.
Anaheim was less threatening in the first, and over the rest of the game, they were only able to play the Kings even in overall shots/chances, and fell even further behind in the same metrics at even strength. It ensured that LA could play the kind of hockey they were comfortable with, and that the Ducks wouldn't have too many opportunities to crawl back into it. LA's insurance goal at 14:04 helped, too. The most unexpected development? The goal was... SOFT! Despite what Darryl Sutter's sarcasm might imply, John Gibson had in fact been really good through seven periods in goal against the Kings. However, he finally looked like a rookie during the second period, when Trevor Lewis snuck a shot past him.
Of course, it's a shot you don't score on very often. But we'll call it a nice bonus for Lewis, who was effective tonight while facing the toughest competition of any King. (Oh, and doesn't this look a bit like the GWG in Game 6 last round? Aside from the whole pushing-the-goalie thing.)
Anaheim nearly got the goal back when Alec Martinez was pressured into throwing the puck up the middle from behind his net, and it ended up on Saku Koivu 's stick. His shot squirmed through the legs of Jonathan Quick but hit the post before being cleared. Didn't matter too much, though; Kyle Palmieri came back less than a minute later and scored, as he beat Jeff Schultz to the outside and tucked in a wraparound before Quick could get across. It was Quick's only mistake of the night, as he stopped ten shots in the third and backstopped a Kings PK that was perfect for the first time since Game 1.
If you only have time to watch two minutes of Game 6, you should watch LA's final penalty kill to get a feel for how the Kings won this game. The Ducks got two shots near the beginning of the man advantage, after Slava Voynov headed off for a high-stick/takedown of Mathieu Perreault at 13:01. After Quick denied those, Dwight King and Mike Richards made great stick plays to force clear the puck, Doughty killed time with his typical puck mastery, and the Kings' defensive discipline forced Anaheim offside twice. Special attention to Matt Greene (who had a really good game) and Schultz, who were on the ice for the final minute and a half of the kill. Ben Lovejoy then took a crucial high-sticking penalty, crucial in that the Kings were able to spend almost the entire two minutes in the Ducks' zone.
LA eventually ran out the clock despite an onslaught from the Ducks in the final minute, including Quick's best save on Devante Smith-Pelly with 40 seconds to go. When Corey Perry whiffed on his shot with a second left, the Kings could finally exhale and celebrate a Game 6 victory. Not too much celebrating, though; do they ever celebrate too much anymore? No, because LA isn't satisfied. One more win gets the Kings a California Championship belt and a date with Chicago.