Los Angeles Kings defensemen Alec Martinez didn’t see it but realized he must have done something good, judging by the excited reaction of forward Jarrett Stoll and the rest of his Kings teammates.
Seconds later, Martinez realized that he had just score the overtime goal that pushed the Kings to a 5-4 victory past the Chicago Blackhawks Sunday night and propelled Los Angeles to the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers. Game 1 is Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t know it went in until I saw Stolly going bananas there,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “He was pretty excited. That’s when I started celebrating, too. I didn’t really see it go in. I know it went off a couple of bodies. I just tried to get it though and fortunately it went it.”
The goal past screened Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford at 5:47 of the overtime frame was the latest up in a rollercoaster ride for the Kings in the playoffs. L.A. has rolled Lucky Sevens throughout the playoffs – winning all their series in seven games. They’re the first NHL ream to play 21 games through the first three rounds of the playoffs to reach the Final.
“Well, I think the playoffs are obviously a very emotional time of year, but I think we’ve got a good group of guys in here that have been through it before and know it can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” Martinez said. “But it’s real important to stay even keep, not get too high and too low. I think it speaks to the character of this hockey club that there are quite a few times throughout the series that we could have gotten down on ourselves. But the resiliency that (teammate) Willie (Mitchell) just spoke of is really evident in this team.”
The Kings now turn their attention to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist the Rangers, a well-rested team that eliminated the Montreal Canadiens last week in six games. “Great goaltending. Great defense. Great forwards. Great special teams,” Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter said of the Broadway Blue Shirts.
“I’d say it’s against us,” Sutter said. “We’re up against it again.”