Discover ‘Road to the Cup’: Los Angeles Kings

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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.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.