Hockey / Sports

The Los Angeles Kings' Jeff Carter (77) and Anze Kopitar (11) react after Marian Gaborik (12) scores on Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller in the second period in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday, May 16, 2014. The Kings advanced, 6-2. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Kings set for short turnaround with Blackhawks looming on Sunday

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- History, and now a chance at revenge.

The Kings are in the Western Conference finals for a third consecutive year, a concept that would have seemed unfathomable just a few years ago, when the annual highlight of the Kings' season was the NHL draft lottery.

Now they're sitting at the league's adult table, with a chance to return a favor to the Chicago Blackhawks when that series starts Sunday afternoon at United Center.

"To advance, you've got to beat the best, and Chicago is the best right now," Kings winger Justin Williams said after the Kings beat the Ducks in Game 7 on Friday night. "They're the Cup champs and we're going to try to knock them off."

A year ago, the Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, faced the Blackhawks in the conference finals and were eliminated, fairly soundly, in five games. The Blackhawks went on to win the Cup, and now the Kings get a chance to end that reign, in the same way Chicago ended theirs.

That won't be easy. The Blackhawks haven't always looked their sharpest in these playoffs, with six-game victories over St. Louis and Minnesota in the first two rounds, but Chicago is always tough on the Kings.

The Blackhawks swept the Kings in three regular-season meetings, although they were a bit disjointed, as each team was without its starting goalie for two of them.

The Kings also have a short turnaround, with Game 1 against Chicago set to start approximately 39 hours after Game 7 ended. The players didn't seem too concerned about that, nor were they particularly impressed with themselves for returning to the conference finals.

Still, it's a big moment for the franchise, which reached the conference finals only one time from 1968 to 2011 before its championship run in 2012.

"It's a stepping-stone," captain Dustin Brown said. "Getting back there is one thing, but obviously there were some things that we didn't do last year that we want to do this year. Obviously the team that we're going up against got the job done last year, so we have to reload now."

BIG-GAME GOALIE

With an absurd amount of poise, Jonathan Quick extended his right arm and poked the puck. It skidded away, and with it, for all practical purposes, went the Ducks' chances of winning Game 7.

Quick's save on Corey Perry's first-period penalty shot preserved the Kings' 2-0 lead, which they eventually extended to 5-0.

"If Perry scores on the breakaway, it's probably a different game," Williams said. "There were a lot of things that went our way tonight. We earned it."

Quick continues to be at his best in the biggest games. The Kings have faced elimination six times in these playoffs, and Quick has allowed a total of eight goals in those games.

GETTING IT GOING

The oft-discussed statistic held up Friday night, as the team that scored the first goal won every game of the series. The Kings wasted no time, as they took a 1-0 lead 4:30 into the first period on their fifth shot on goal, a Williams rebound in front of the net.

"On the first shift, we probably had one or two grade-A scoring chances," Brown said, "and then it kind of rolled from there. It wasn't just one guy tonight. All four lines contributed and I thought we did a good job of keeping our foot on the gas pedal."

The Kings improved to 7-1 in these playoffs when they score the first goal, opposed to 1-5 when they allow the first goal.

"We talk about good starts," center Anze Kopitar said. "You (reporters) have been blowing up that whoever scores the first goal wins the game. We figured that we were going to (try to) do that pretty quick."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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KINGS


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