Justin Williams scored two second-period goals on Tuesday night, sending the Los Angeles Kings to the Western Conference Final and eliminating the San Jose Sharks in a 2-1 Game 7 victory.
“Back’s against the wall. Us or them. That’s what hockey players think about when they grow up: a chance to win it for your team in a do or die” said Williams on NBC Sports Network after the Game 7 win.
It was the first Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 ever held at Staples Center: The California hockey barn where the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup last June, and where they haven’t lost a game in the 2013 postseason.
“It seems like there’s a sense of comfort when you’re within our dressing room,” said Williams earlier this month of his home arena. “You know what everyone’s capable of, and you know that come crunch time, they’re going to get it done for you.”
In crunch time, Williams got it done. The defending champs will face the winner of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.
It’s just what Williams does. An underrated offensive player, he’s had moments of pure domination in his playoff career.
Against the Sharks, he became the first player in NHL history to score a goal in his first four Game 7’s. He now has five Game 7 goals, more than any other active NHL player.
In 84 playoff games, Justin Williams has 50 points for a 0.60 points per game average. In his two Stanley Cup-winning season, he has 33 points in 45 games for a 0.73 points per game average – higher than his career regular-season average of 0.66.
His two goals against the Sharks were quite distinct. First, on the power play, and then at even strength.
An offensive zone penalty on Brent Burns led to a Kings power play, on which broken stick shot from the point from Slava Voynov fluttered to the Sharks goal. Williams corralled the puck off the end boards and surprised goalie Antti Niemi, who thought he had the post closed off. The puck flipped over his pad and crossed the goal line.
Then, less than three minutes later, a turnover by the Sharks resulted in an Anze Kopitar pass to Williams for a nasty one-timer and a two-goal lead.
Like Williams said about the Kings: “You know that come crunch time, they’re going to get it done.”
He got it done, with two goals. Jonathan Quick got it done, with 24 saves, some of them absolutely brilliant.
The Sharks ultimately didn’t get it done, but not without showing some heart in the third period. Dan Boyle’s goal cut the lead to 2-1, and the Sharks ended with a flurry against the Quick. But in the end, Williams’ goals stood up, and the Sharks were eliminated.