NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Sunday, June 1st
(All times Eastern)
Los Angeles Kings (3-3) at Chicago Blackhawks (3-3), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - A series which once seemed firmly in the hands of the
Los Angeles Kings has been stretched to the limit. Now the defending champion
Chicago Blackhawks will try to complete a monumental comeback when they host
the Kings in Sunday's Game 7 battle at United Center.
The Kings grabbed a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals after Monday's
5-2 home victory, but Chicago has responded with two close victories to even
this best-of-seven set at three games apiece. The winner of Sunday's clash
will meet the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals, after the Blueshirts
eliminated Montreal in six games for the Eastern Conference title.
Chicago, winner of two of the league's last four Stanley Cup titles, first
staved off elimination with a 5-4 double-overtime win Wednesday on home ice
and did it again with Friday's 4-3 decision in Los Angeles. The Blackhawks
hope to complete the comeback Sunday in the Windy City, where the club boasts
an 8-1 record this postseason and a 19-3 mark since the start of the 2013
The Blackhawks also hold a 13-0 mark after Game 4 in each of the past two
postseasons and is seeking another successful comeback from down 3-1 after
recording the first one in franchise history last spring. Chicago lost three
of the first four games in last year's conference semifinals against Detroit,
but won the final three tilts and claimed Game 7 in overtime en route to
winning its second Cup since 2010.
If Chicago wins Sunday's contest it will become just the second team in NHL
history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and win the conference finals. Only
the 2000 New Jersey Devils, who beat Philadelphia, have overcome a 3-1 series
deficit in a conference final and advanced to the fourth and final round.
The Kings, meanwhile, hope to regroup Sunday and avoid being eliminated by
Chicago in the West finals for a second straight year. Los Angeles, the 2012
Cup champions, fell in five games to the Blackhawks in 2013 and appeared well
on its way towards exacting revenge for that loss before the last two games.
With the Game 6 loss, L.A. became just the third team in NHL history to have
its first three playoff series advance to a seventh game in one playoff year.
The 1993 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2002 Colorado Avalanche previously saw each
of their in-conference playoff matchups reach Game 7s, with the Leafs losing
to the Kings and Avs to the Red Wings.
"We've got to win. There is no other option," Kings star defenseman Drew
Doughty said of Game 7. "I think we're going to have our best effort of the
series next game. All of the guys are going to step up to the plate. Our
leaders are going to lead the way. Everyone else is going to follow. We're
going to have our best effort."
The Kings, of course, were only the fourth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0
deficit to win a playoff series when they beat San Jose in the opening round
and then came back from 3-2 down to eliminate Anaheim in seven games during
the conference semis. Both of L.A.'s previous Game 7 victories in this
postseason also came on the road.
"We know they're a resilient group," Chicago forward Patrick Kane said after
leading his team to the Game 6 triumph. "They've won two Game 7s on the road
in their first two series. It's going to be a tough one. Right now we're happy
we got the win, but it doesn't mean anything because we haven't won anything
yet. We'll get ready for the next one and we know they'll bring the best for
Kane, last spring's Conn Smythe winner, has been a big part of Chicago's
revival in this series, recording seven points over the last two games. After
notching four assists in the Game 5 victory, Kane scored two goals and added
an assist on Friday.
Kane assisted on the tying goal in Game 6 and then netted the game-winning
score late in the third period to force tonight's winner-take-all battle. The
speedy forward had been held without a point in the first three games of this
series, but has amassed eight points (2G, 6A) over the last three contests.
Ben Smith and Duncan Keith added Game 6 tallies for the Blackhawks, while
Corey Crawford picked up the win thanks to 26 saves.
Los Angeles scored the only goal of the first period before Chicago carried a
2-1 lead into the second intermission. The Kings then grabbed a 3-2 lead with
a pair of goals in the first eight minutes of the third period before the
Blackhawks mounted a comeback.
"I don't think anyone lost confidence or got down after those two goals they
scored in the third," Crawford said. "If anything we kept pressing even
harder. Some great shots by Duncs and Kaner, some great plays, and we were
able to shut then down at the end."
Kane's slick pass on the left wing found Keith at the inner edge of the circle
for a successful wrister to knot the game with 8:26 showing. Kane struck once
more with 3:45 left in regulation. He trailed a Brandon Saad rush on the right
wing, accepted a back pass, then moved from the circle into the middle and
beat Jonathan Quick with a wrister to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 edge.
"It's unbelievable, I looked at him, I think it was about a minute left, I
think there was a stoppage of play and I almost started laughing," Toews said
of Kane. "It's amazing what he can do in these big games, when our season is
on the line and nobody else seems to be able to do it the same way he does it,
it's pretty amazing."
Doughty, Dwight King and Alec Martinez scored for the Kings, while Quick
stopped only 21 shots in defeat. Doughty has collected seven points (3G, 4A)
in the last five games.
The loss didn't deter Doughty from adding confidently: "We've had two chances
to close out this series and we're not going to blow the third one."
The Stanley Cup Finals will begin Wednesday night with the Rangers visiting
the winner of Sunday's Game 7 for the first two tests of the championship
06/01 10:36:09 ET