Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Well-worn teams in final

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Henrik Lundqvist had his game-day face on at practice.

He still smiled and answered all the questions thrown at him Monday about the Kings — the Rangers' opponent in the Stanley Cup final.

"Exciting. Long flight," the star goalie said Monday before he and his teammates headed to California for New York's first appearance in the final since winning it in 1994. "East Coast-West Coast. I'll look forward to this matchup."

If there wasn't enough pressure on Lundqvist to lead his team to the championship, he is now part of the hype machine heading into Game 1 on Wednesday.

Headlines are screaming: "King Henrik vs. the Kings."

"Clever," he said with a slight laugh.

The Rangers waited since Thursday, when they finished off Montreal in the Eastern Conference final, to find out if they would face the 2012 Cup-winning Kings or the defending champion Blackhawks for the Cup.

"Any team you play at this time of year is a good hockey team, especially a team that has kind of been around the playoffs and the Stanley Cup finals a couple of times in the last few years," forward Derek Stepan said. "This is a very good hockey club, We have a tough challenge in front of us."

The Kings returned to Los Angeles after Sunday's 5-4 come-from-behind overtime win at Chicago and took Monday off. They have played a record 21 playoff games before the final — one more than the Rangers.

Before this year, no team that played seven games in each of the first two rounds had reached the final. Now, both clubs have done it. The Kings have won three Game 7s — all on the road — to get here.

Sunday's win came 5:47 into overtime when Alec Martinez sent a shot on net from the point. The puck ricocheted off of Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy and fluttered in.

"That was the most emotional seven games I've ever played," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.

The West final was defined by superlatives. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called Game 5's two overtimes the best extra periods he had been a part of. Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said the series deserved to go the distance after Game 6.

The Kings, who led the series 3-1 before losing two straight, erased a 4-3 deficit in Game 7 when Marian Gaborik backhanded home a loose puck in front of Crawford at 12:43 of the third period. Los Angeles had already overcome an early two-goal deficit with two first-period goals, scoring twice in 51 seconds.

"It's kind of hard to put everything into words right now," Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar said.

Predators: They signed backup goalie Carter Hutton to a two-year, $1.45 million contract. Hutton, 28, will earn $700,000 this season and $750,000 in 2015-16.

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