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updated: 6/2/2014 12:18 AM

L.A. proves it's one tough out

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  • The Los Angeles Kings celebrate Sunday after eliminating the Blackhawks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

      The Los Angeles Kings celebrate Sunday after eliminating the Blackhawks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

This is how Kings can rule Los Angeles.

By winning a Game 7 on opposition ice for the third time in one postseason. By knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champs. By doing the latter when facing a 1-goal deficit with less than eight minutes left in regulation.

By winning a second Stanley Cup in three years.

After beating the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center on Sunday night, the Kings are in position to do what they did in 2012, when they hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup. They're headed to the NHL Final to meet the New York Rangers.

Is the city of Los Angeles noticing?

"Within the past few years we've tried to earn the respect of the league," said Justin Williams, who assisted on defenseman Alec Martinez's winning goal 5:47 into OT. "L.A.'s not just a place to come, play a hockey game and work on your tan. It's a tough loop in California right now to play (Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose). We want to put L.A. on the map and put it significantly on the map with regards to hockey."

The no-quit Kings trailed the Blackhawks 2-0 with 8:36 gone in the first period. Los Angeles was down 3-2 at the end 20 minutes and 4-3 until Marian Gaborik redirected in the game-tying goal with 7:17 left in the third.

"We were looking around after being down 2-0 and just saying this wasn't it for us. It wasn't going to end this way," said Williams, whose seventh goal of the playoffs evened the score at 2-2 with 2:38 to go in the opening period. "Heck, we battled back so many times this year and so many times so far in these playoffs. We said, 'Why not again today?' "

On the game-winner, defenseman Matt Greene started a breakout and got the puck to Williams, who skated behind the Hawks' net before finding Martinez near the blue line.

With Jarret Stoll screening goalie Corey Crawford, Martinez's shot deflected into the air and found the back of the net, stunning a noisy crowd that was crazy loud all night.

"We had good net presence by (Stoll) and, I guess, a good bounce," Martinez said.

The OT hero's reaction was slightly delayed.

"I didn't really even know it went in until I saw (Stoll) going bananas," Martinez said. "He was getting excited, so that's when I just started celebrating too."

Surely, in L.A., Kings fans celebrated as well. But Williams knows the Kings, despite the gray-and-black conference champions hats he and his teammates were wearing, haven't won the Cup yet.

"Hey, listen, this is three-quaters of the way. This isn't the whole way," Williams said. "We got a big, big challenge ahead of us. We're proud of the way we've performed so far, but we won't be satisfied and certainly will have a lump in our throat if we don't follow through with our ultimate goal."

What makes these resilient Kings special? Their coach will reserve comment, for now.

"We're going to try to beat New York," Darryl Sutter said. "Then we'll be really special."

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