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Escape Kings: L.A.’s brushes with elimination

Jun 14, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT

Jonathan Quick, Alec Martinez AP

The Los Angeles Kings only lost four games in their astounding 2012 title run. In stark contrast, they were pushed to the brink of elimination in all but one of their series in winning a second Stanley Cup this year.

If you want to make an argument that some teams are best with their backs against the wall, the 2014 Kings might be your Exhibit A. Let’s look back at their sterling efforts when they faced elimination.

(Interestingly, the Kings struggled quite a bit more when they were trying to put another team away. But let’s leave that out to keep this post from being 15,000 words.)

Sharks series

In case you somehow forgot, the Sharks went up 3-0 in this series, only to …

Game 4 vs. San Jose: Kings win 6-3

Who knew how correct Darryl Sutter was in saying that the Kings wouldn’t go away quietly when they were down 3-0 to San Jose? The Kings saw 1-0 and 2-1 leads go away but never trailed in that Game 4, so they passed that early test without too many scares.

The Kings claimed they saw fear build in the Sharks’ eyes as the series got closer to being tied.

Game 5 vs. San Jose: Kings win 3-0

Tyler Toffoli scored the first goal 8:09 into the first period and the Kings didn’t really struggle in protecting a 2-0 first period lead. Jonathan Quick‘s hot streak was really taking off at this point.

Game 6 vs. San Jose: Kings win 4-1

Justin Williams gave the Kings a 1-0 lead that they carried for a good chunk of this game, yet things were nervous in the second period. James Sheppard managed to tie things up 12:26 into that frame. Most interestingly, the Kings took three penalties in less than four minutes of game time, including an interference penalty from Robyn Regehr and a high-sticking infraction from Jarret Stoll just 23 seconds apart. You could argue that run of chances was San Jose’s best chance to finally put L.A. away.

Los Angeles pulled away in the third period with its season on the line as Williams and Anze Kopitar combined for three goals in less than three minutes. Things got very nasty at the end of Game 6, including an altercation between Joe Thornton and Quick.

Game 7 vs. San Jose: Kings win 5-1

After a scoreless first period, the Sharks finally scored the first goal of a game in which the Kings were facing elimination in this series as Matt Irwin made it 1-0 early in the second.

That didn’t matter for very long, however, as the Kings scored twice in the middle frame and rattled off five unanswered goals to become one of the few teams to come back from down 3-0 in a series. Quick only allowed two goals in the last three games, beginning a pattern of strong finishes by Los Angeles.

Ducks series

The Kings actually took a 2-0 series lead but eventually found themselves down 3-2 against Anaheim.

Game 6 vs. Anaheim: Kings win 2-1

Jake Muzzin opened the scoring in the first period while Trevor Lewis made it 2-0 with about six minutes left in the second period. Kyle Palmieri cut the lead in half to 2-1 about a minute and a half later, yet that’s as close as the Ducks would get on that night.

Game 7 vs. Anaheim: Kings win 6-2

The Kings made their 5-1 win in Game 7 against San Jose look heated compared to this anticlimactic contest. Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards gave the Kings a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Kopitar and Marian Gaborik didn’t take long to beef that lead up to 5-0. While the Ducks’ goalie carousel continued, Quick continued to be a brick wall when Los Angeles needed him the most.

Blackhawks series

The shoe was on the other foot in this series. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead after losing Game 1, yet the Blackhawks narrowly avoided elimination in Games 5 and 6 before setting up a fantastic finish.

Game 7 vs. Chicago: Kings win 5-4 in OT

After seeing the Blackhawks barely beat them in two heated games to stretch that classic Western Conference finals to the limit, the Kings managed their own late heroics. To start things off, the Kings survived an early onslaught from Chicago. The ‘Hawks generated 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads yet couldn’t put Los Angeles away. Most dramatically, Gaborik managed to send it to OT with a late third period goal. Alec Martinez‘s shot bounced it past Corey Crawford and the Kings managed to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

***

One might argue that the Kings struggled mightily when the Blackhawks and New York Rangers faced elimination instead of the other way around. Los Angeles generally did things the hard way in this impressive 2014 run, yet they managed to get to the finish line nonetheless.

Sure, you could linger on how close they were to getting bounced … although aside from that Game 7 classic against Chicago, the Kings generally turned it up quite a few notches when their season was on the line.

  1. wittenisgod - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:09 PM

    Shark fans still must be spitting feathers!

  2. patthehockeyfan - Jun 14, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    Nice summary, O’Brien. I was a little surprised you didn’t expand on Game 5 in the Blackhawks’ series. The OT period that Coach Q described as the best he’s ever seen, 8+ minutes in OT without a whistle. Instead of Game 7, THAT was the instant classic.

    While watching Game 4 of The Finals, a crawl onscreen said that the Kings had, so far, scored 11 goals in The Finals … by 11 different players. Too much talent on that team, and that explains why they took The Cup. Tough, gritty, resilient, talented bunch of guys. I couldn’t be happier for them. Congratulations, LA Kings!!!

  3. ronniethec - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    As a 44 year Kings fan, this was the most unbelievable gut wrenching playoff run that I have ever seen. This Kings team has captured the hearts of L.A. like no sports team in memory. And the sweet sweet sweep over the sharks seem like sooo long ago. (Does anyone know if the sharks are still in the NHL?)

  4. toews19 - Jun 14, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    I’m still left to wonder what could’ve been if the Blackhawks won that game 7…

    • itwasafumble - Jun 15, 2014 at 1:28 AM

      I would think that they probably would have went on to beat the Rangers for the Cup.

  5. papajack1259 - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    It was sanctioned by the higher authority of Hockey Gods that this team…this LA squad would win …… They had it all, skill at every position, backed up by determination, an unflappable coach who made just the right player choices at just the right spots, and Lady Luck, and when Luck was trying to leave like the posts and the puck walking on the goal line…they grabbed her and put her in the back of the net….this was one fine fun team to watch play…this from a die hard Bruins boy….they deserve to have their names on the cup.

    • blomfeld - Jun 15, 2014 at 12:10 AM

      WELL SAID FRIEND ! … AND THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH !!! :) :) :)

  6. nightfireop - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    unlike the sharks’s outcome, you ask any kings fan and they’ll say that the rangers [despite losing in 5 game to the sharks's 7] went out swinging.

  7. ronniethec - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    Nightfireop. I M a kings fan and I completely agree with you. The rangers have far more tough but clean fight in their make up than the sharks. To me the sharks have always been a cheap shot gutless team. Just my opinion.

    • nightfireop - Jun 14, 2014 at 10:43 PM

      if the sharks thought tanner pearson’s empty-netter was adding insult to injury, imagine how the decision-makers from the sharks must have felt when doughty said on the records that he could see fear in the sharks’s eyes.

      the sharks lack character in the playoff grind, and honestly…i’m wishing to my lucky stars that they don’t deal-out thornton and marleau. heck the longer they keep those two, the easier it would be for the kings for a few more years to come.

      PS: cheapshot and gutless? mike brown keeps coming into my mind.

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