The Kings’ stress of two straight losses and a hostile road date against the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks is eased by the fact Justin Williams is on their side.
Williams not only is 6-0 in Game 7s, he has six goals and six assists in the dramatic affairs, scoring points in both of this year’s finales against the San Jose Sharks and Ducks.
Saturday, upon the Kings’ arrival in Chicago for Sunday’s decisive Western Conference finals game at United Center at 5 p.m., Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said his team’s past poise in big games is critical.
“It can take you away from any of the anxiety of it,” Sutter said. “I didn’t look at it like it’s Game 7. I just look at it like we’re going to do everything we can to beat Chicago.”
Williams embodies that calm, his reputation as “Mr. Game 7" the first topic of mention Saturday as he and two teammates met with reporters.
“Bet you didn’t see that coming,” Kings center Anze Kopitar kidded.
“You treat Game 7s as an opportunity to do something special. An opportunity to improve yourself. An opportunity to advance and get the better of the team that you’ve battled with for six games,” Williams said. “It’s going to be no different. We have, obviously, a huge bone to pick with them and we’ll leave it all out there, because there’s no more after this.”
Williams has scored a point in four of six games in this series. He assisted Dwight King’s opening goal in Friday’s 4-3 loss in which the Blackhawks scored twice in the final 8:26 to force the winner-take-all event between the last two Stanley Cup champions.
The Kings’ edge is that they’re 6-0 this postseason in elimination games with Williams contributing five goals and four assists in those games.
“Being self-driven is how we got here,” Williams said. “We’re successful hockey players because we’ve been able to rise to the challenge, not occasionally, but … every time it’s come towards us.
“We’re just forgetting all this other junk that’s going on. We’re in Game 7. The best team’s going to win tomorrow, and that’s that. We’re going to make sure it’s us.”
At the end of the second period Friday, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick charged toward Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, bumping facemasks, with Crawford threatening to drop his gloves for a fight that never happened.
“I don’t think it had any impact on anything,” Sutter said of the unique scene. “I think [Quick] was coming over ‘cause he thought he’d been shoved around a little bit. They’ve made a point of it.”
Crawford low-keyed the tension after a 26-save night that helped redeem him from the Kings’ 15 goals in Games 2-4: “There wasn’t much said there, nothing out of the ordinary.”
The Kings surged back ahead, 3-2, with two goals in the first 7:38 of the third period after the confrontation.
“I love spunk and fire within a goalie,” Williams said.
Whichever goalie is more extraordinary Sunday probably will take his team to the Stanley Cup Final beginning Wednesday at the winning team’s arena.
Crawford said the series has been an ultimate test of resolve.
“You can’t think of anything negative, or worry about what happened on a goal … it’s all about the next shot,” he said. “I have confidence in our guys to score goals and to come back, so [the thinking] is, ‘Don’t give ‘em another one.’ We’re confident. We’ve showed every game we push back.”
Said Sutter: “Big saves and bad goals are the difference in a series when you have two really close teams, and that’s how this series will be judged when it’s over.”
The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the NHL during the regular season, but they’ve given up nine combined in the two straight losses, and while defenseman Drew Doughty has been heroic, there are struggles elsewhere.
Defenseman Matt Greene was limited to half of Doughty’s playing time Friday. Jake Muzzin was minus-two in goal differential with two giveaways Friday, and Slava Voynov was skating during Chicago’s last two winning goals.
As the Kings struggle to slow Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane — two goals, five assists in Games 5 and 6 — Sutter said there’s no help coming from injured veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, who’ll remain out.
“Our two other pairs [besides Doughty-Muzzin] are, for the most part, playing as well as they can,” Sutter said.