Created: 05/16/2014 11:57 PM WNYT.com
By: GREG BEACHAM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Justin Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards scored in an overwhelming first period, and the Los Angeles Kings advanced to their third straight Western Conference finals with a 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of their second-round series Friday night.
Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Tanner Pearson also scored, and Jonathan Quick made 25 saves to help the Kings claim the first postseason Freeway Faceoff series in thrilling style, winning back-to-back elimination games over their top-seeded Southern California rivals.
The Kings improved to 6-0 when facing elimination this spring, shredding rookie goalie John Gibson for four goals in the first 23 minutes in Game 7.
The defeat likely ended the career of 43-year-old Teemu Selanne, who intends to retire.
The Kings advanced to a conference finals rematch with the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Game 1 is Sunday in Chicago.
The Kings added the victory to their 7-1 record in elimination games over the past two years, showing off the remarkable poise that has led to eight playoff series victories in three seasons. The 2012 Stanley Cup champions took charge in the first period and led 5-0 late in the second, never allowing the Ducks to get close in their own building.
Los Angeles, which chased Gibson on Kopitar's goal early in the second period, hung on to win its second straight seven-game series. The Kings rallied from an 0-3 deficit to stun San Jose in the first round.
Kings fans' chants of "This is our house!" echoed through Honda Center, where the Ducks were one of the NHL's best home teams during the best regular season in franchise history.
The Kings got stellar performances from their best big-game players. Quick improved to 3-0 in Game 7 in his career, while Williams kicked off Los Angeles' first-period onslaught with his sixth goal in six career trips to Game 7. Williams also has six assists in those deciding games.
Gaborik scored six goals in the series' four games in Anaheim, giving him an NHL-best nine goals in his first postseason with the Kings. Gaborik, Williams and Richards are unbeaten in six career trips to Game 7, while Carter improved to 4-0.
The 20-year-old Gibson was overmatched, yielding four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled 2:02 into the second period for Jonas Hiller, the dependable veteran who was twice benched by coach Bruce Boudreau in the season's final weeks. Boudreau dropped to 1-5 in his six career trips to Game 7 with Washington and Anaheim, losing all five times at home.
After winning his first two playoff starts in impressive fashion, Gibson took his second straight loss — but Gibson didn't deserve all the blame behind a team that made innumerable mistakes in its biggest game of the season.
Corey Perry scored early in the third period, but also missed a penalty shot and got denied on a second-period breakaway on his 29th birthday. Kyle Palmieri scored late in the second period after Anaheim already trailed by five goals.
The game was an unsightly farewell to Selanne, whose 21-season NHL career began in Winnipeg in 1992 and included parts of 15 seasons in Anaheim. The Finnish Flash scored 684 regular-season goals, but had just two goals in 12 playoff games this spring. The crowd chanted "Let's Go Teemu" in the final minutes, and Selanne accepted congratulations from his teammates and the Kings after the final horn.
Game 7 also might have been a finale for Saku Koivu, although the 39-year-old Finnish center hasn't decided whether he'll retire after 18 NHL seasons.
The anti-climactic finale capped the most memorable season in these clubs' 20 seasons spent just 30 miles apart on the I-5 freeway. The Ducks won four of their five regular-season meetings, including a 3-0 victory in January in the clubs' historic outdoor game at Dodger Stadium.
The road team won the first four games of the series, with the Ducks rallying from two opening losses with three straight victories. Los Angeles staved off elimination for the fifth time this spring with a 2-1 victory in Game 6 on Wednesday, helped along when Gibson allowed a soft goal to Trevor Lewis.
NOTES: The Kings again played without two injured veteran defensemen. Willie Mitchell missed his eighth straight game and Robyn Regehr missed his sixth straight. ... Los Angeles is the 17th team in NHL history to win a Game 7 twice in the same postseason run. The New York Rangers also have done it this spring. ... The visiting team has won five of the six Game 7s in the current playoffs.
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)