For the second time in just three years, the Los Angeles Kings will play in the Stanley Cup Final.
They needed just 12 games to get this far back in 2012. It was a very different story this time around…
Round 1: Beat San Jose 4-3
The Kings didn’t exactly start the playoffs off on the right foot. The Sharks outscored them 13-4 over the first two contests, shifting the talk away from Los Angeles and towards the possibility of San Jose making a serious run at the Stanley Cup. When the Sharks edged out the Kings in overtime in Game 3, it seemed like Los Angeles’ elimination was all-but inevitable.
Only three teams had ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit, but Los Angeles wasn’t deterred. The Kings not only won their next four games, but they did so by wide margins, outscoring San Jose 18-5.
Round 2: Beat Anaheim 4-3
The Ducks and Kings had a long-standing rivalry fueled by geography, but this was the first time the crosstown rivals were actually pitted against each other in the playoffs. They made it a series to remember.
Los Angeles took the first two games, prompting Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to shake things up by starting goaltender Frederik Andersen over Jonas Hiller. Andersen was solid in Game 3, leading to Anaheim’s first victory of the second round, but the netminder suffered a lower-body injury in the process.
Rather than go back to Hiller for Game 4, Boudreau decided to start 20-year-old John Gibson, who shut out the Kings in Game 4 and led Anaheim to a third straight victory in Game 5 with his 39-save performance.
Once again the Kings were on the brink of elimination, but they rallied back. For the second straight time, the Kings’ Game 7 wasn’t even close as they scored three goals in the first period en route to a 6-2 victory.
Western Conference Final: Beat Chicago 4-3
Since Darryl Sutter took over as the Los Angeles Kings head coach, only one team has managed to beat them in a playoff series, and that’s the Blackhawks. The defending Stanley Cup champions took Game 1 against the Kings and held a 2-0 lead late in the second period of Game 2.
It looked like the Kings might have finally met their match, but they broke out with six unanswered goals to even the series. From there they jumped to a 3-1 series lead — their largest margin of the 2014 postseason.
Chicago gave the Kings a taste of their own medicine though by taking Game 5 and then overcoming a 3-2 deficit in the third period of Game 6 to win on the strength of a Patrick Kane goal.
Los Angeles consequently had to play in a third Game 7 and this time they were against an opponent that wouldn’t wilt under the pressure as Chicago got off to a 2-0 lead. When the Kings rallied back with two goals in under a minute, Patrick Sharp responded just 12 seconds later to reestablish Chicago’s edge.
By the third period, Chicago had a 4-3 lead, but Marian Gaborik tied it with 7:17 left to play in regulation and defenseman Alec Martinez gave the Kings their first lead of the contest with the game-winning overtime goal.