ANAHEIM, Calif. – Forty seconds into this decisive Game 7, the Los Angeles Kings had already peppered a pair of point-blank shots on Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson.
He saved both.
The same can't be said about three of the next 14 shots he faced in the first period, or the second one fired at him in the second. Those goals helped lead to a 6-2 rout that sent both teams packing – Anaheim for summer vacation, the Kings for a trip to Chicago where they'll face the Blackhawks in the Western Conference final.
This was an anticlimatic ending to what had been an excellent series. To this point, four of the six games were decided by a single goal, the others by two, and both teams were even on the scoreboard at 13 goals apiece.
Having staved off elimination in Game 6, the Kings ventured 30 miles south and made themselves right at home, scoring three times in the first 15 minutes. By the time Mike Richards knocked home a rebound with under five minutes to play in the opening period, the fired-up away crowd was chanting, "This is our house." And who could argue with them?
Sixteen to six, the shot total read at the end of one.
By the time Justin Williams made it 4-0 early in the second, with his second goal of the game, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau had seen enough. He pulled his 20-year-old goalie, probably a few minutes too late.
The Ducks finally got on the board late in the second, but that only made it 5-1. To their credit they put up a fight to the finish, peppering Jonathan Quick in the third, but the hole was too deep to climb out of.
If this is in fact the last season for Teemu Salanne, well, it's too bad the future Hall of Famer's career ended in a dud like this.
The 43-year-old came back for one more season because he saw in this roster a team that he thought could compete for one more shot at a Stanley Cup. He wasn't far off in his assessment. The Ducks tore through the regular season with 54 wins – tied for most in the league – and beat the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs.
But in the Kings, they found a team that could match their speed, was more physical and had a goalkeeper in Quick who, when on, is as unbeatable as any in the sport.
Quick didn't have to be great for 60 minutes Friday night, but he was in the moments the Kings needed him to be, providing one half of an offense-defense combination that should concern the three other teams left standing, most immediately the Blackhawks.
Chicago will have two days extra of rest on the Kings when the puck drops on Sunday at United Center in a matchup of the last two Stanley Cup winners.
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