You hear the names of the teams and years, spoken almost in hushed, ceremonial tones: the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers.
The 2014 Kings are within one game of joining these hockey-history makers, the only NHL teams to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
They did it in wildly spectacular fashion Monday night in Game 6 at Staples Center, beating the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, fueled by a three-goal, third-period outburst to the delight of a frenzied crowd.
Justin Williams scored the first two Kings goals and had an assist and Anze Kopitar seemed to take personal ownership of the third period, scoring twice and adding an assist.
It unfolded as the walls came tumbling down, swiftly and dramatically, as the Kings scored three goals in a four-shot stretch in a span of 2:46 in the third period.
Game 7 will be Wednesday at San Jose’s SAP Center, a formidable arena fondly called “the cage,” by Kings Coach Darryl Sutter.
The Kings are the ninth team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0 in a series.
“To be honest, we couldn’t wait for the next game .... after Game 3,” Kings enter Jarret Stoll said. “We couldn’t wait for Game 4. We couldn’t wait for Game 5 and then tonight. That doesn’t change.
“We’re excited. We’re excited to play a Game 7, always great games, great atmospheres. You want to be the hero in those types of games, play well and be counted on as an important part of something like that.”
The Kings and the Sharks needed seven games to decide last year’s second-round playoff series, and the Kings clinched it at home with Williams as the Game 7 hero.
Williams delivered the Game 7-type heroics in Game 4 and 6 this year. His game-winning goal, at 11:56 of the third period, had to be reviewed and it took time before it was eventually called a good goal.
“I felt it was loose, behind him somewhere,” Williams said of Sharks goalie Alex Stalock. “The ref didn’t blow the whistle and I just tried to dig at it and it went in. I was just kind of thinking either way. If they decided not to count it, fine. I was OK with that as well. It counted.
“Maybe we got a break. Maybe we didn’t. We’re going to see what happens in Game 7.
The NHL’s situation room explained the decision on its blog: “At 11:56 of the third period in the San Jose Sharks/Los Angeles Kings game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the San Jose net. Video review confirmed the referee’s call on the ice that the puck entered the net in a legal fashion.”
San Jose Coach Todd McLellan disagreed with the NHL’s ruling on the goal.
“We got cheated. Simple as that,” McLellan said. “I was told that you could see the puck laying behind his feet the whole time. That is why the whistle didn’t go. It’s pretty clear when you look at it after. That was obviously the turning point. Got to move on and overcome it again.”
Kopitar wrapped it up in neat fashion, converting a rebound on a three-on-two attack at 13:27 and scoring once more at 14:42.
“It was a tight game up until the third,” he said. “We certainly did not want to go away quiet and we came out and we drew some penalties and we were able to get a couple just to insure ourselves.
“We gave ourselves a chance to play another game. This is going to be the last one against these guys, regardless. That was our goal after the three games. This was our goal, to go back for Game 7 to San Jose.”
The high drama was saved for the third period as they headed to the final 20 minutes tied, 1-1. San Jose was without its No. 1 defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was injured in Game 5, and the Kings lost Willie Mitchell, who got hurt near the end of a terrific penalty-killing effort in the second period of Game 6.
That’s when the Kings seemed on the verge of a great escape when they killed off a five-on-three. San Jose had a two-man advantage for 1:38 when Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr went off for interference, followed by Stoll going off for high sticking.
After that, they killed off yet another minor: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty went off for high sticking at 9:54. But the Sharks broke through with an even-strength goal from their fourth-liners shortly after Doughty returned, taking advantage of a double-deflection, off a skate and a stick. James Sheppard scored his second of the series, redirecting defenseman Justin Braun’s shot from the point, at 12:26, making it, 1-1,
Stalock kept the Sharks in a position to stay competitive when the Kings dominated the first period and took a 1-0 lead on the first Williams goal of the game at 5:39. It could have been a two-goal lead, or more, had Stalock not been so sharp.