Crown ’em again: Kings win second Stanley Cup in three years

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LOS ANGELES — For the second time in three years, the Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions.

The Kings beat the New York Rangers, 3-2, tonight in a wildly entertaining, painfully tense Game 5 at Staples Center that went to double overtime and finally ended on an Alec Martinez goal after 94:43 of total action.

Martinez buried a rebound that Henrik Lundqvist put right on the defenseman’s stick off a Tyler Toffoli shot.

Unlike the 2012 Kings who romped to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history while losing just four times, it took the 2014 version 26 games to get it done, tying them with the 1987 Flyers and 2004 Flames for the most contests in one postseason. Along the way, the Kings erased a 3-0 series deficit versus the San Jose Sharks, took out their crosstown rivals from Anaheim after trailing 3-2, and eliminated the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in a memorable seven-game series that went to overtime in the decider.

Tonight’s game could’ve ended earlier, and it could’ve gone either way. In the first overtime, Ryan McDonagh hit the post squarely on a New York power play. Toffoli hit the cross bar a little later on. Chris Kreider had a breakaway that Jonathan Quick stopped. Justin Williams, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, had chances. So did Jeff Carter. And Rick Nash. And others.

In the second overtime, the Rangers hit the post again when Mats Zuccarello tipped a Dan Girardi point shot with Kyle Clifford in the box for boarding Derek Dorsett. Not long after, Nash was staring at an empty net, but his shot tipped off Slava Voynov’s stick.

Lundqvist was brilliant once again for the Rangers, stopping 48 shots. He entered tonight’s must-win with a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in the five elimination contests the Rangers had played this postseason, allowing just one goal in each game. He was the major reason the Kings didn’t end things in Game 4. But he couldn’t rescue his team again tonight.

The Kings got the start they’d been looking for, as Williams opened the scoring at 6:04 of the first period, before the Rangers had even managed their first shot on goal. Williams, renowned for scoring big goals in the playoffs, slid a loose puck past Lundqvist on a play that started with a Willie Mitchell point shot. Dwight King and Jarret Stoll also had rebound chances in front, drawing three Rangers to two Kings, before Williams, left open, pounced.

The Rangers may not have started well, but they fought back valiantly in the second period, scoring two late goals that left the crowd in a temporary state of shock.

First came Kreider on the power play, one-timing a flawless pass from McDonagh to tie it at 15:37. The goal was just the second power-play marker of the series for the Rangers, who had gone 1-for-19 with the man advantage before Kreider scored.

Then, with the Kings on the power play, speedy forward Carl Hagelin beat Voynov to a loose puck along the boards in the neutral zone. Hagelin got it to big Brian Boyle, who beat a weary Drew Doughty wide, before firing a perfect shot over Quick’s left shoulder to put the Rangers up 2-1 with 30 seconds left in the middle frame.

All of a sudden, a trip back to Madison Square Garden for Game 6 became a very real possibility.

The Kings started the third period uncertainly; however, a controversial tripping penalty to Zuccarello came at 7:39, opening the door for Marian Gaborik to poke a rebound between Lundqvist’s legs at 7:56, after the Rangers’ star goalie failed to control a point shot from Doughty.

Los Angeles nearly scored again late in the third – Carter ripped one high from the slot with five minutes left, and Jake Muzzin had a one-timer go wide with mere seconds remaining – but regulation time expired with the score tied, bringing on overtime for the third time in the series.

The Kings once again hoisted the Cup at home, just as they did in 2012. The five other championships won in the last seven years were clinched by road teams.

For the Rangers, there’s bitter disappointment after coming so very close to forcing Game 6 Monday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers would have had a chance to force an anything-can-happen Game 7 back in Los Angeles.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.

Selanne, Kariya, Andreychuk, Recchi headline 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class

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The Hockey Hall of Fame will welcome five players and two builders into its doors as part of the 2017 class.

Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Dave Andreychuk, Mark Recchi and Danielle Goyette were officially inducted as players on Monday afternoon, while former Canadian collegiate coach Clare Drake and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs were inducted under the builders category.

Overall it is an extremely impressive class of players. Selanne, Andreychuk and Recchi are all among the top-20 goal scorers in league history, while Goyette was a 10-time gold medalist for the Canadian women’s hockey team, including twice at the Olympics. Drake was the long-time coach of the University of Alberta Men’s ice hockey team, coaching the team to six University Cup championships in 28 years. He coached the Edmonton Oilers for one season in 1975-76 when they were still in the WHA. Overall his coaching career spanned 40 years at various levels of Canadian hockey.

Selanne’s induction seemed to be an obvious one, but for Andreychuk and Recchi it ends what were pretty lengthy waits to finally have their names called.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Recchi, Selanne and Andreychuk were the only retired players in the top-30 of the NHL’s all-time points list to not already be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The only active players in that group are currently Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton, and both seem like locks to eventually get in once their careers end (Jagr certainly is a lock).

Pierre Turgeon, 31st all time with 1,327 points, is now tops among retired scorers to not yet be inducted into the Hall of Fame.