Kings return to Western finals thanks to Williams, Quick

Ross McKeon, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Justin Williams weaved his Game 7 magic, Jonathan Quick slammed the door and the Los Angeles Kings are moving on.
The duo combined to lead the Kings to a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, as Los Angeles moved one step closer to successfully defending last season's Stanley Cup victory.
"We were competing as hard as we could and we tried to start the game with a full tank and I think we had some guys that were on empty at the end," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
Los Angeles awaits the winner of Wednesday's Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks' season ended at Staples Center, a building where they lost four times in the series.
"They are a real good team," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We thought we could come in here and steal a game. We played our hearts out and that's all you can ask of each other."
Williams scored two goals, giving him five goals and nine points in four career Game 7s, and Quick stopped 24 of 25 shots to deny a San Jose team looking to reach the conference finals for the third time in four seasons.
"Goals are tough to come by, it just so happened I was able to get a couple tonight," Williams said. "I think I could have had a few more also. Sometimes the puck bounces your way."
The Sharks finally solved Quick at 5:26 of the third period when Dan Boyle's shot from the middle of the blue line snapped the Los Angeles goalie's scoreless streak at home at 116:30 spanning back to Game 2.
However, the visitors couldn't score a tying goal on their seven shots thereafter or earn a call for a power play. Joe Pavelski had the best chance to tie it with five minutes remaining, but his point-blank shot was along the ice and gloved by Quick.
"We had very good looks," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "And trust me it wasn't that they weren't trying to bear down, it just didn't go. ... The competitiveness and effort of our team and organization down the stretch is something I'm very proud of, and we should be proud."
Sharks goalie Antti Niemi was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:40 remaining. Logan Couture's shot from left of the slot was gloved by Quick with 1:19 left.
"It's been a long year," Couture said. "We battled hard to get where we were. We made some changes and played a good first round then forced I think the best team in the league to seven games and almost beat them in their building. It's tough to take."
Niemi finished with 16 saves.
Things fell apart for the Sharks in the second period after they carried a majority of the play during the first 24 minutes. It started when forward Brent Burns interfered with Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr in the Los Angeles crease, the second of three straight San Jose minors committed far from the Sharks' net.
Los Angeles converted 1:25 into the resulting power play when Williams scored the first of his two middle-period goals by jamming the puck past the right skate of Niemi at 4:11 after Slava Voynov's point shot fluttered wide.
"I pushed to the puck, I should have pushed a couple of inches inside the post," Niemi said. "I wasn't able to hold it."
The goal capped a span of 18:54 between the first and second periods in which the Kings went without a shot.
The Sharks lost their poise thereafter, committing turnovers one after another as Niemi stopped a Dustin Penner breakaway and gloved a Jeff Carter drive before Williams fired wide following a miscue by Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan.
Kings goalie Quick stopped Patrick Marleau's turnaround shot in front and watched as a Matt Irwin drive trickled just past the far post. Moments later Williams capped a nifty passing play at 7:08 with his second goal, a blast from the right circle.
"Every time it looked like it was going through his legs and into the net, pucks trickling wide," Pavelski said. "When you're playing the champs you have to earn your victory and they got that once more bounce."
The Sharks outshot the Kings 5-3 and won 10 of 13 faceoffs in a tight-checking, defense-first opening period that finished scoreless.
Los Angeles bunched its three shots on goal during a 69-second span five minutes into the game.
A slow line change combined with a Boyle giveaway put the visitors on their heels when Dustin Brown's shot from the left circle started a dangerous sequence. Brown and Voynov took their turns firing away, but Boyle and fellow Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart blocked pucks before they could reach Niemi.
Thornton high-sticked Mike Richards in front of the Los Angeles net, but the Kings' power play lasted only 21 seconds before Carter high-sticked San Jose penalty-killing forward Pavelski.
Boyle managed a shot on the resulting 21-second San Jose power play, but Quick kicked a rebound to the boards.
The Sharks had two other close calls: Thornton hit a pinching Irwin, whose shot from the slot was stopped by Quick, and Burns fired wide moments later from the left circle. San Jose's Bracken Kearns stole a puck deep in the Los Angeles end and tried to feed Adam Burish in the slot, but the pass sailed over the open San Jose forward's stick in the final minute of the opening period.
"That's what good teams do, they score on their chances," Couture said. "They did and we didn't and they're moving on."
NOTES: The Sharks dressed 11 players with previous Game 7 experience -- 32 games in all and 15 played in a San Jose sweater. San Jose center Scott Gomez led the way with nine Game 7s. The Kings had seven players with Game 7 experience totaling 15 games, but none while wearing the Los Angeles logo. Regehr had four. ... The Sharks are 5-3 all-time in Game 7s. The Kings are 4-4 after winning the first Game 7 they played at home since 1989. ... NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance. ... Defensemen Jason Demers, Matt Tennyson and forward Tim Kennedy were San Jose's healthy scratches. Defensemen Keaton Ellerby and Alec Martinez along with forwards Jordan Nolan and Tanner Pearson did not suit up for Los Angeles.

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