LOS ANGELES – Justin Williams figures he gets his knack for Game 7 heroics from the same source as the Los Angeles Kings’ resilience throughout their grinding seven-game victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Williams thinks the Kings all drew their inspiration from that Stanley Cup championship banner hanging over the Staples Center ice, and it carried them through to the Western Conference finals.
“It comes from the hunger of winning one and having that drive for another one,” Williams said. “You don’t want anyone else to raise the Cup but you.”
Williams scored two goals in the second period, and the Kings advanced with a 2-1 victory over San Jose on Tuesday night.
Jonathan Quick made 25 saves as the defending champs finished off this agonizingly even series with their 14th consecutive home victory over the past two months, including seven straight in the postseason.
Not much separated the teams in this thrilling all-California series, but the Kings cited last season’s trophy for their poise and persistence in another nail-biting clincher.
“I certainly enjoy pressure situations,” said Williams, whose goals were 2:57 apart. “I know everyone in this dressing room does. We pride ourselves on being a team that, push comes to shove, we’re going to get it done. We’ve been through it before, and we know we can do it.”
Williams scored on a power-play tap-in and a one-timer, putting the Kings on top to stay. The veteran wing came in with an eight-game, goal-scoring drought, but the two-time Stanley Cup winner has scored nine points in his four career appearances in a Game 7.
The Kings will face Chicago or Detroit when they attempt to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third time. The Blackhawks will host the Red Wings in Game 7 tonight.
The home team won all seven games in the series, as did the team that scored first. The fifth-seeded Kings barely rode their home-ice advantage to victory in their first potential elimination game in the last two years.
“They were as good as us,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “We just scored.”
Quick and his teammates barely held off the Sharks in a frantic third period. Quick showed off his Conn Smythe Trophy form yet again, finishing the seven-game series by allowing just 10 goals.
“We’re going to play every game like this, no matter what,” Quick said. “It doesn’t matter how many games it takes, especially against that team. We’re fortunate to move forward.”
Antti Niemi stopped 16 shots, and Dan Boyle scored early in the third period for the Sharks, who fell just short of their third trip to the conference finals in four years. Even during a year of roster turnover and change, sixth-seeded San Jose remained a serious contender in its ninth straight playoff appearance.
“We thought we could come in here and steal a game,” Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. “We played our hearts out, and that’s all you can ask of each other. We had to lay it on the line in the third, and I thought we did. Jonathan Quick is just a fantastic goalie. … We were just having so much fun. It’s disappointing that it has to end, because we were really enjoying this. It’s a tough way to finish.”
Los Angeles has won eight straight home playoff games, dating to last season’s Stanley Cup clincher, but this one might have been the toughest. San Jose pressed the action throughout the third period after Williams’ back-to-back goals put the Sharks in a hole, but Quick and the Kings’ defense hung on for a win in Los Angeles’ first Game 7 at home since 1989.
“The way they banded together and the way they played for each other was exceptional,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s a great sign for our organization. I think we have something to build on moving forward.”
This series was even from the start, with neither team able to take more than momentary control.