Blackhawks fall narrowly short in brave Cup defense

Mon Jun 2, 2014 1:56am EDT
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By Karl Plume

(Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks saw their hopes of a second consecutive Stanley Cup triumph dashed in heartbreaking fashion with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in a deciding Game Seven of their Western Conference Finals on Sunday.

Chicago won the opener of a thrilling series between the last two Stanley Cup champions but lost the next three, leaving no room for error against a Kings team armed with an opportunistic offense and bruising defense.

In the series decider, the Blackhawks surrendered the lead on three occasions to a gritty opponent who only led once - when it mattered the most.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville dismissed a suggestion that the team fell victim to fatigue in a season that saw a raft of his players participating at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

"We were pretty close to getting to the big dance, when you look at how close we were, how competitive it was. It's a tough thing to do to win the cup," Quenneville told reporters.

"I know one thing, they find a way, L.A., they're never out of a hockey game, they're never out of a series. They're dangerous."

The Blackhawks, feared around the league for their speed and skill, were matched stride-for-stride by the Kings, who struggled to score goals at times during the regular season.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford saw his NHL playoffs-best save percentage of 0.931 after the first two rounds against St. Louis and Minnesota plummet to 0.884 against the Kings.   Continued...

Jun 1, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: caption correction due to official scoring change) Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll (28) reacts after teammate Alec Martinez (not pictured) scored the game-winning goal past Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy (8) , defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) and goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the overtime period in game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports