Justin Williams (right) scored his first two goals in eight games and led the Kings to a narrow Game 7 win. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Why Los Angeles Won: Big-game Justin Williams stepped up with two goals – one a little quirky – that gave the Kings the simple goal advantage they needed in a close, low-scoring series. Jonathan Quick was his tip-top self and denied the Sharks any chances at momentum with acrobatic and sometimes lucky saves. A fine-tuned team that carries itself well in every challenge they meet, Los Angeles showed off the shiny belt tonight.
Why San Jose Lost: The history books will show another early playoff exit for the San Jose Sharks, but what they won’t show is how this team came inches away from pulling off a large upset. Logan Couture’s missed shot-block attempt that snuck under his shin pad resulted in an awkward first goal. Later, a tipped Sharks chance got past Quick, but quietly slid by the wrong side of the post; on the transition, Williams scored his second as an outstretched Antti Niemi was a blink behind. And the flurry of chances San Jose piled on in their press down the stretch got nothing except Quick highlights. There’s no shame in losing out this way – the Sharks and Kings put on a great, full series.
Play of the Game: With the Sharks down by one and putting on all kinds of pressure, Joe Pavelski was left wide open with an empty cage, but couldn't handle the puck and was denied by a desperately sprawling Quick. This one will haunt Pavelski. San Jose was just a second late and a penny short.
1. Justin Williams: Hadn’t scored since Game 4 of the St. Louis series, but Williams – a noted Game 7 performer – bit the Sharks twice in three minutes and that was the difference.
2. Jonathan Quick: Looks otherworldly when the game is on the line down the stretch. Quick was fantastic when the ice was slanted down towards L.A.’s zone and frustrated Sharks shooter all series.
3. Antti Niemi: The 18 shots he faced is certainly low, but Niemi’s show-stopping athleticism kept the Sharks within striking distance, even when they were on the defensive for most of the first two periods. Niemi could do nothing more on the two goals scored against him.
What’s Next: This Sharks team may have been different from some of the recent past, but the results were the same. If there is a positive to take away, it’s that they didn't fold or choke this series away – the Sharks showed a lot of character and determination in first recovering from a 2-0 series deficit, then winning one elimination game and taking the next one to the final seconds. The difference between greatness and ordinary is as thin as the margin in this game. For the Kings, each time have faced a new challenge to their championship mettle, they have met it this post-season. They had to come back from a 2-0 series deficit to St. Louis, something they didn't have to do last year, and won four in a row. They had to face their first elimination game in two years Tuesday night and handled it with an assured, though frenzied at times, confidence. Depth, goaltending and a calm, collected system carried the Kings to a Cup in 2012 and has them in position to defend it. With Chicago and Detroit in their own Game 7 Wednesday night, the past five Stanley Cup winners are still alive – and the Kings machine is the one they’re all chasing.