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Commentary: Kings win series for the ages
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, shown during game one of the Western Conference Final, scored the game-winner Sunday night. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
The Los Angeles Kings, capable of so much this spring, were unable to describe the exhilaration they felt after completing the most stunning in a series of remarkable comebacks, too dazed to sum up how they battled the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks through seven splendid games, until Alec Martinez’s overtime goal eluded Corey Crawford and sent Drew Doughty into a screaming, glass-banging frenzy and sent his teammates pouring off the bench in front of a deflated crowd at the United Center.
“Deep down we definitely felt we could do this. Coming from behind the whole game, and being in a loud rink, obviously they were playing good. To make it happen I think shows the character we have in this room. And that really is priceless.”
It took seven dramatic games played at a breathless pace and high skill level for the Kings to unseat the Blackhawks, who last season had unseated the Kings as champions.
“There wasn’t guys diving, there wasn’t guys cheating. It was just an honest series where there were battles in the corners. There were a lot of goals. Everything. There was everything in this series.”
“We’ve been saying it all along,” Doughty said. “That feeling we had when we won that first Cup was the best feeling of anyone’s lives.
The Kings, the NHL’s top defensive team during the regular season, were forced into run-and-gun games by the Blackhawks more often than they wanted.
“New York’s an awesome team. They beat a few great teams to get here, so they’re battle-tested as well. We’ve got a lot to get ready for.”
The Kings had to adjust to losing defensemen Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr to injuries but were able to plug in Jeff Schultz until Mitchell returned.
Coach Darryl Sutter scrambled his lines to have young wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli flank veteran center Jeff Carter, a line that carried the team at times against Chicago.
Most of all, the Kings persevered to win their third Game 7 on the road, after missing two chances to clinch — including one at home on Friday.
The tougher the fight, the more rewarding it is. Kopitar and his teammates couldn’t put that into words, but their resilience shouted it out to the world for them.