LOS ANGELES — The Kings’ seven-game series with the Sharks came down to another tense third period, with the home team clinging to another one-goal lead. Two teams with tiny differences were one or two mistakes away from the Western Conference finals or summertime.
Jonathan Quick hardly ever makes mistakes in the postseason, and that’s the biggest reason Los Angeles’ Stanley Cup title defense is still rolling.
Justin Williams scored two goals in the second period, Quick made 25 saves in his latest dominant playoff performance and the Kings advanced with a 2-1 victory over San Jose in Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Seven games over 15 days only served to underline the similarities between these Pacific Division powers, but the indomitable goalie in the Kings’ net wouldn’t allow the Sharks to equalize in the final minutes. The defending champs finished off this agonizingly even series with their 14th consecutive home victory over the past two months, including seven straight in the postseason.
Quick and his teammates barely held off the Sharks in the frantic final minutes after Dan Boyle’s goal early in the third. Quick showed off his Conn Smythe Trophy form yet again, capped by an astonishing glove save on Joe Pavelski’s chance at an open net with 5:04 left, to finish the seven-game series by allowing just 10 goals.
“We’re going to play every game like this, no matter what,” said Quick, who leads the league in postseason goals-against average (1.50) and save percentage (.948). “It doesn’t matter how many games it takes, especially against that team. We’re fortunate to move forward.”
The Kings will face Chicago or Detroit when they attempt to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third time. The Blackhawks will host the Red Wings in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Quick couldn’t do it all by himself, and he got help from a familiar big-game source: Williams scored on a power-play tap-in and a one-timer, putting the Kings on top to stay. The veteran wing came in with an eight-game goal-scoring drought, but the two-time Stanley Cup winner has scored nine points in his four career appearances in a Game 7.
“I certainly enjoy pressure situations,” said Williams, whose goals came 2:57 apart. “I know everyone in this dressing room does. We pride ourselves on being a team that, push comes to shove, we’re going to get it done. We’ve been through it before, and we know we can do it.”
The home team won all seven games in the series, as did the team that scored first. The fifth-seeded Kings barely rode their home-ice advantage to victory in their first potential elimination game in the last two years.
“They were as good as us,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “We just scored.”
Antti Niemi stopped 16 shots for the Sharks, who fell just short of their third trip to the conference finals in four years. Even during a year of roster turnover and significant change, sixth-seeded San Jose remained a serious contender in its ninth straight playoff appearance.
“We thought we could come in here and steal a game,” Thornton said. “We were just having so much fun. It’s disappointing that it has to end, because we were really enjoying this. It’s a tough way to finish.”