CHICAGO | The rest of June will be hauntingly quiet around the United Center.
The Blackhawks’ quest for a second straight Stanley Cup came to a thudding end late Sunday night in the Western Conference Finals thanks to an irrepressible Los Angeles Kings team.
The Kings’ 5-4 victory was forged 5:47 into overtime in Game 7 via Alec Martinez’s goal that deflected off defenseman Nick Leddy past goalie Corey Crawford. The score prevented the Hawks from completing a comeback from a 3-1 playoff series deficit for the second postseason in a row.
The Hawks had the lead three times, including with just more than seven minutes left in the third. But each time the aggressive Kings charged back to tie.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made a save on an Andrew Shaw shot with five seconds left to ensure the overtime.
“Tough one to go down three games to one to a team like that,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It seemed like an insurmountable deficit to come back from, but we found a way. We gave ourselves a chance. It’s pretty amazing to have done that against a team like this.
“This goes to show how tough it is to win a Stanley Cup. ... It’s pretty amazing to think about what this group has accomplished. (But) there’s no satisfaction at all. It’s a bitter pill to swallow it. It will take a few minutes to try to get over it.”
The game featured quicksilver scoring uncommon for tighter-checking playoff games and more wild momentum swings that made the conference finals memorable. The Hawks and Kings combined for 51 goals against goalies Quick and Crawford.
Patrick Sharp, who had been quiet in this series, scored two goals, including a power-play tally near the end of the second period to give the Hawks their final lead at 4-3.
The Kings weren’t finished at all with a little more than seven minutes left in the third. Brown banged a long shot off Crawford and in the right spot near the net, Marian Gaborik pounced on the rebound to tie it up for the 50th goal in the series.
“We gave up a lot of leads this series,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “Go back to Game 2, we had the lead going into the third. We played hard ... but obviously you got to give L.A. a lot of credit. They were resilient and never gave up. Game 7 in overtime, anything can happen.”
The line of Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad flanking gritty center Andrew Shaw struck quickly to give the Hawks the lead just five minutes into the game. Kane slipped behind the Kings’ goal to direct a pass to Saad perching almost even with the goal line. Saad powered a tough-angle shot past Quick for his sixth playoff goal.
That seemed to give even more momentum to the Hawks and hot-hand Kane. Less than three minutes later, Kane drew one of the assists on Toews’ power-play goal in which Quick stopped a Brent Seabrook shot. But Quick leaned left, the puck went in the other direction and Toews tapped it into the gaping hole.
Kings winger Jeff Carter swatted at a rebounding puck in mid-air and put it in for L.A.'s first goal and his ninth of the postseason near the end of the first.
A minute later, teammate Justin Williams, one of the most productive active playoff scorers, tied it up 2-2 with an upstairs shot past Crawford.
Sharp remedied his drought, beating Quick from the right side for a 3-2 lead as the first period waned.
Carter linemate Tyler Toffoli caught Crawford out of position to tie it 3-3 midway through the second.
“We had a couple of chances late in the third,” Keith said. “It just wasn’t to be.”