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Doughty's big third period nearly gets Kings to Final

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez sat a few lockers down from Drew Doughty and stated what was difficult to argue.

"Drew, as far as I'm concerned, is the best defenseman in the world," Martinez said.

That was quite a proclamation considering the way the Kings and Chicago Blackhawks exchanged blows in Chicago's 4-3 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Friday at Staples Center. But what was left in the remnants of a Kings loss was another remarkable display by Doughty in his finest Stanley Cup Playoffs yet.

With the Kings trailing 2-1, Doughty grabbed a loose puck and wristed it past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and into the net from the high slot at 5:32 of the third period. Tie game.

Just more than two minutes later, Doughty held on to the puck on the right side during a power play and maneuvered to set up Martinez, who wristed a shot past Crawford for a 3-2 lead.

There was also Doughty's big hit on Andrew Shaw in the second period, a hip check that would have made former Kings defenseman Rob Blake proud. Late in the game, some hockey writers jokingly tweeted that it was too late to change their Norris Trophy vote for best defenseman. Doughty was not a finalist this season; it was tough to understand how that was possible after his performance in Game 6.

"He was awesome," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "That's the kind of player he is. He can make big plays, score big goals, at both ends of the ice, have big defensive plays or big offensive plays. We've seen that from Drew. He gave us that in the third, for sure."

The Kings will need another big game from Doughty in Game 7 on Sunday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Doughty, who played more than 39 minutes in the Kings' double-overtime loss in Game 5, has an endless supply of energy and will, as well as a little bit of spunk on an otherwise introverted Los Angeles team.

"I'm frustrated, but I'm over it pretty quickly," Doughty said. "I know we've got another game to play. Game 7. We've had two chances to close out this series, and we're not going to blow a third one."

Los Angeles was its usual even-keeled self after the game, but it was obvious that the Kings hadn't intended to go back to Chicago. It will be their stiffest test yet in a terrific playoff series, and it will be their third Game 7 in these playoffs -- all on the road.

Doughty agreed that the Kings' mettle in Game 7s -- they won winner-takes-all games against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks in the first two rounds, not to mention numerous times in past seasons -- will help. But he indicated they will need more than aura at United Center.

"I don't know if we played enough desperate hockey these last two games, and I kind of think that's why we lost both of them," Doughty said. "It's about time we get to that type of game that the Kings can play."

Doughty won't win the Norris, but he's building a case for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs with three goals and four assists in his past five games. Of course, the Kings would need to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, and that will involve slowing down Patrick Kane, who has come alive in the past two games to help extend the series.

The Kings will play into June for the third straight season after doing so once in their first 44 years of existence. They have played 59 playoff games since 2012, most in the NHL.

The unflappable Doughty didn't seem fazed.

"I guess we can get used to it," he said. "Yeah, we don't want to be used to it. I guess if you play Game 7s throughout the whole playoffs, it's going to be pretty tough on your body. Whatever. We're in this situation. Before the series, if we were asked, 'Would you go to Chicago for Game 7 and be put in that spot, just a one-game thing?' I think we would take it."

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