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Kings in Game 7 Heaven: The New York Times

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05-30-2013, 12:38 AM
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Andrew Knoll
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Kings in Game 7 Heaven: The New York Times

This is a slightly truncated follow-up piece to the Kings Game 7 victory, with comments primarily from Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Thank you for reading.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/sp...tml?ref=hockey

Winning the Close Ones Is Working Fine for the Kings
By ANDREW KNOLL
LOS ANGELES — For a team that has been to the summit, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings have managed to conquer quite an assortment of new challenges this postseason.

On Tuesday, they won Game 7, 2-1, over the San Jose Sharks to advance to the Western Conference finals. Last year, the Kings did not reach a Game 7 in any of their four series. Similarly, they did not experience a series deficit like the 2-0 hole they climbed out of in the first round against the St. Louis Blues.

“All the games have been very close,” the captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s a completely different year, but at the same time our team is very similar and we can win a lot of different ways. We can grind it out and find different guys at different times.”

For 14 of their 20 dressed players, including 12 homegrown products, it was the first Game 7 of their careers. Fortunately for the Kings, wing Justin Williams had experience to spare.

Williams scored twice in a little less than three minutes during the second period. In four career Game 7’s, Williams has five goals and four assists, along with the distinction of being the first player in league history to score in each of his first four Game 7’s.

“When I think Game 7’s, I think Justin Williams,” said Coach Darryl Sutter, who seldom offers such high praise for an individual.

Williams, who also won a Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, arrived in Los Angeles in 2009 as a buy-low acquisition. Injuries and the resulting mixed form had clouded his future in Carolina, even though he consistently returned to the lineup earlier than expected.

He has sustained two tears of both his medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament, two fractures of his left hand and a torn Achilles’ tendon, among other injuries.

Williams, 31, missed more than 100 games in his first two seasons with the Kings, but he has not missed a game over the past two seasons. He has become a mainstay of market research for injury prevention, as he seems to be among the first to try every pad, brace, sleeve, protector, stocking, sock, glove and potion available.

For Williams, being part of deep playoff runs more than validates the arduous recoveries and fastidious maintenance.

“It feels more than worth it just to help, to see the faces of the guys when you score, and to see the happiness everyone has for everyone else in this room is key; that’s what makes it all worth it,” Williams said.

He passed up credit for the victory, deferring to goalie Jonathan Quick and the solidarity throughout the Los Angeles lineup.

“I wouldn’t say hero; I’d say the hero was the goaltender tonight,” Williams said. “If I didn’t score two goals tonight, someone else in this dressing room would have.”

Quick turned in the latest in a series of awe-inspiring playoff performances Tuesday. His bid for his third shutout of the series was ended by a Dan Boyle slap shot, but he played a game that several Kings felt surpassed his previous dominant outings.

Early on, Quick made an improbable recovery to rob Logan Couture during a scramble. It would be the first of many spectacular saves against the line of Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, San Jose’s three leading goal-scorers during the regular season.

Immediately before Williams’s second goal, he stopped Marleau and Couture in quick succession, sending the Kings the other way for what would stand as the game-winning goal.

Brown said that feeding off Quick’s play in net was nothing new for the team.

“He’s one of those guys that you want to play as hard as you can for because you know that regardless of the score of the game or how he feels, he’s going to be busting his butt for you,” Brown said. “It’s a contagious, snowball effect.”

Quick turned aside Couture and Pavelski in the drawn-out, waning moments of the game, but his save on Pavelski with 5 minutes 4 seconds remaining probably preserved the series for Los Angeles. After saving a slap shot from the left point, Quick lunged to his right to glove Pavelski’s point-blank shot from the right side of his net while lying on his side.

“That save was a game-breaker for them,” Brown said. “That’s why he’s our backbone back there.”

For Quick, Williams and the rest of the Kings, repeating as champions has become the only acceptable expectation.

“The desire to repeat comes from the hunger of winning once and having that drive and that anger that you don’t want anyone to raise that Cup but you,” Williams said.

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