There’s a special nucleus to this club.
It’s built on a foundation that has led this team to the Western Conference Finals for the third consecutive year while simultaneously evading elimination for the sixth time this postseason. All, in a manner that epitomizes the calmness and collectiveness of an experienced, poised group in Friday night’s 6-2 rout of the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.
“We came out strong, we got after it right away.” Anze Kopitar told reporters following the game. “Justin got us on the board pretty quick, and we rolled after that. It was a complete effort by all 18 guys that dressed up.”
There was no denying the Kings’ vicious attack from the opening puck drop, their pressure was relentless and well-balanced, they took complete control of the game within minutes, and then went haywire with a three-goal outburst in a 10-minute span.
Justin Williams, who may have the best reputation in the NHL for Game 7 performers, opened the scoring for the Kings, slamming home a rebound from a Slava Voynov shot atop the point, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest.
For Williams, it was his first goal of the series, and his 11th point (6G, 5A) in what was his 6th career Game 7.
Minutes after Williams’ opening goal, Jeff Carter sped between two Anaheim defensemen as he hopped on the puck through the neutral zone, then skated in alone on John Gibson, beating him with a quick backhand shot that the Ducks’ goaltender had absolutely no chance on.
Carter’s goal, his second of the series and fourth of the playoffs, gave the Kings a 2-0 lead with 11:12 remaining in the first period.
And from Carter, it went to Richards.
Richards, much like Carter, split through Anaheim’s defensemen to score a goal of his own. After dropping the puck back to a supporting Dwight King as the two players pressured three Anaheim defensemen, Richards drove to the net as King fired off a wrist shot.
Gibson couldn’t handle King’s shot cleanly, and Richards gobbled up the loose puck, tucking it past Anaheim’s Rookie goaltender to give the Kings a 3-0 lead with 4:48 remaining in the opening period.
The Kings outshot the Ducks 16-6 in the first 20 minutes, setting the pace on and off the scoreboard.
Two minutes into the second period, Anze Kopitar joined the party.
After Anaheim coughed up the puck in the neutral zone, Drew Doughty chipped Kopitar a quick lead pass, and the Kings’ forward walked in and beat John Gibson with a quick snapper from atop the left circle.
Kopitar’s goal, his first of the series, gave the Kings a 4-0 lead with 17:58 left to play in the middle frame.
Kopitar’s goal also chased John Gibson from Anaheim’s net, as Bruce Boudreau called for Jonas Hiller for the first time since Game 2. The Kings scored on Gibson four times on 18 shots.
On some of the most beautiful power play passing you’ll ever see, Marian Gaborik stretched the Kings’ lead to 5-0, scoring his sixth goal of the series, and his league-leading ninth goal of the postseason.
The Ducks’ buried one in the final minutes of the second period as Kyle Palmieri’s shot trickled just inches past the goal line, cutting the Kings’ lead to 5-1 with 2:58 remaining in the second period.
Early in the third, Anaheim would tack on another. This time, off the stick of Corey Perry, who beat Jonathan Quick high to the top left corner, getting the Ducks to within three with 16:18 left to play.
From then on, the Kings soaked in Anaheim’s desperation efforts, playing a smart, composed game on the heels of Jonathan Quick, who was utterly outstanding in the final period.
Tanner Pearson chimed in with his second career playoff goal, burying a feed from Jeff Carter to give the Kings a 6-2 lead with 6:06 remaining, the night’s eventual final score.
Six different players scored for the Kings, and eleven players total recorded at least one point.
With the series win, the Kings will now face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive postseason. The Kings fell to the Blackhawks in five games last year.
The Kings will head Chicago Saturday morning to prepare for Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals series against the Blackhawks, which is slated to begin Sunday afternoon at the United Center, a 12:00 PM PST start.