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LA Kings reach Stanley Cup finals Blackhawks dethroned

CHICAGO, June 2, (Agencies): Alec Martinez scored at 5:47 in overtime as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Sunday and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Martinez’s shot went off Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy and over goalie Corey Crawford, stunning the sellout crowd at the United Center and leading to wild on-ice celebration for Los Angeles. Leddy was disconsolate as the Kings gathered in a big huddle along the boards. Los Angeles improved to 7-0 in elimination games with its third Game 7 win on the road this postseason. It will host the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night.

“We’ve battled back so many times this year and so many times in these playoffs, we said, ‘Why not again today?’” said Justin Williams, who had a goal and an assist. “It was a total team effort, every single guy here giving everything they’ve got.” The Kings became the first team to play 21 games through the first three rounds of the playoffs and make it to the NHL finals. The 2002 Avalanche and 1993 Maple Leafs also played the maximum amount of games through three series, but they lost in Game 7 of the conference championships. Los Angeles is the only team to play all three of those Game 7s on the road. “You need everybody when you get to Game 7. You’re not into the individual part of it,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “There’s always guys that score big goals, make big plays. But you need everybody in your lineup.”

Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who once held a 3-1 lead in the series, only to have the defending champion Blackhawks come back to force Game 7. Marian Gaborik had the tying score midway through the third period. Patrick Sharp scored two goals for the Blackhawks, who blew a 2-0 lead. Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane had two more assists. Chicago’s loss means Detroit remains the last NHL team to win consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998. “I’ve lost some tough games but nothing like tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. The Kings also got 37 saves from Jonathan Quick in another resilient performance for Sutter’s team. Los Angeles trailed San Jose 3-0 in its first-round series and was down 3-2 to top-seeded Anaheim in the second round before rallying each time.

Gaborik, Williams and Mike Richards each improved to 7-0 in Game 7s. Sutter moved to 7-3 in such games, breaking a tie with Blackhawks adviser Scotty Bowman and Pat Burns for the NHL record for most coaching wins in Game 7s. Sharp sent a big power-play drive past Quick to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead at 18:25 of the second. But Gaborik responded with his NHL-best 12th playoff goal at 7:17 of the third, setting the stage for a frantic finish to regulation. Quick turned away prime opportunities for Sharp and Bryan Bickell before he made a terrific save on Andrew Shaw in the final seconds. Dustin Brown had a great rush to the net for Los Angeles that he nearly completed for a breathtaking score. Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, and Crawford finished with 27 saves. Brief profile on the Los Angeles Kings, who won the National Hockey League’s Western Conference title on Sunday to clinch a place in the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers.

Founded: 1967
Home arena: Staples Center
Regular season record: 46-28-8 (100 points)
How they qualified for the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals:
Third in Pacific Division
Beat San Jose 4-3 in Western Conference quarter-finals
Beat Anaheim 4-3 in Western Conference semi-finals
Beat Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Western Conference finals
Head coach: Darryl Sutter
Most goals in playoffs: Marian Gaborik (12)
Most points in playoffs: Anze Kopitar (24)
Stanley Cup Finals appearances: Three (1993, 2012, 2014)
Stanley Cup championships: One (2012)

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