CHICAGO — Alec Martinez scored at 5:47 of overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night.
Martinez’s shot went off Blackhawks defenceman Nick Leddy and over goalie Corey Crawford, stunning the sellout crowd at the United Center and leading to a wild on-ice celebration for Los Angeles. Leddy was disconsolate as the Kings gathered in a big huddle along the boards.
Los Angeles improved to 7-0 in elimination games with its third Game 7 win on the road this post-season. It will host the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday night.
Justin Williams and Tyler Toffoli each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who once held a 3-1 lead in the series, only to have the defending champion Blackhawks come back to force Game 7. Marian Gaborik had the tying score midway through the third period.
Patrick Sharp scored two goals for the Blackhawks, who blew a 2-0 lead. Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane had two more assists.
Chicago’s loss means Detroit remains the last NHL team to win consecutive titles in 1997 and 1998.
The Kings also got 37 saves from Jonathan Quick in another resilient performance for Darryl Sutter’s team. Los Angeles trailed San Jose 3-0 in its first-round series and was down 3-2 to top-seeded Anaheim in the second round before rallying each time.
Gaborik, Williams and Mike Richards each improved to 7-0 in Game 7s. Sutter moved to 7-3 in such games, breaking a tie with Blackhawks adviser Scotty Bowman and Pat Burns for the NHL record for most coaching wins in Game 7s.
Sharp sent a big power-play drive past Quick to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 lead at 18:25 of the second. Sharp, who has been mostly quiet this post-season, celebrated the tiebreaking goal with a big fist pump and scream as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.
The Blackhawks held onto that slim lead all the way to 7:17 of the third, when Gaborik swept in a rebound on the break for his NHL-best 12th playoff goal, sparking a celebration on the Kings’ bench and setting the stage for a frantic finish to regulation.
Quick turned away prime opportunities for Sharp and Bryan Bickell before he made a terrific save on Andrew Shaw in the final seconds. Dustin Brown had a great rush to the net for Los Angeles that he nearly completed for a breathtaking score.