Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Seven

Kings top Blackhawks in Game 7 OT, advance to Stanley Cup Final


The 2014 Western Conference finals received the great game this spellbinding series deserved. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Kings edged the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-4 in overtime to advance to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.

Alec Martinez’s shot took an odd carom off of Nick Leddy to decide the series with the kind of bounce that often determines playoff overtime contests.

The Kings saw their 3-1 series lead dissolve into a 3-3 tie, yet it gave them another chance to display their resounding resilience. They’ve done something that no other team has done: win three road Game 7’s in the same postseason. If nothing else, they would host the Rangers in a Game 7 if the championship round goes that far.

Martinez provided an interesting take on his team’s resiliency:

A fitting end

Really, Game 7 seemed like a microcosm of the 2014 Western Conference finals as a whole. There was a frenzy of goals, the Blackhawks’ leads barely lasted (Los Angeles tied it three times tonight) and then the contest settled into a nail-biter.

The first period provided that frenzy. The Blackhawks charged out to a 2-0 lead, yet some great shots and shaky goaltending ensured that there wasn’t a dull moment. Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick likely didn’t feel very confident about their games going into the first intermission … although the familiarity of it all likely dulled that tension.

The two teams traded goals in the second period to set up a tense third period. With the Kings’ season on the line, Marian Gaborik found a way to push this series into the first conference final Game 7 overtime since the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils back in 1994.

Quick made 37 out of 41 saves as he finished strong while Crawford had the toughest night even before that game-winner (which wasn’t really his fault), allowing five goals on 32 Kings shots.

This marks the Kings’ second Stanley Cup Final appearance in the last three seasons while Chicago’s title defense comes to an end. A lot can change in this parity-friendly salary cap era, yet the feeling is that these two teams may very well fight for the West crown for the foreseeable future.

If that’s the case, they’ll struggle to top this instant-classic series.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.