They tripped him, they jabbed him. They tried to make life miserable for Jonathan Quick. But in the end, it was the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner who made things unbearable for the San Jose Sharks.
The Los Angeles Kings wouldn't have won the Stanley Cup last year without Quick in goal, and they wouldn't have gotten past the San Jose Sharks in their 2013 all-California series. Tuesday night's Game 7 was yet another example of how vital Quick is to the Kings; the best goalie in the world right now.
Early in the second period, Quick did the splits for a crucial save off Logan Couture. Two minutes later, Justin Williams scored for L.A.
Fifteen minutes into the third period, the Kings on top 2-1, Quick made a sprawling glove stop off Joe Pavelski. It was enough for L.A. to oust the Sharks and advance to the Western Conference final against either the Detroit Red Wings or Chicago Blackhawks. Enough to get Tom Cruise out of his seat and cheering. Enough, too, for Quick to record his 13th consecutive win on home ice.
The scary thing about Quick is the more he's playing, the better he's getting. He didn't have a great regular season. He won three of his first 11 games and was losing ice time to backup Jonathan Bernier. It was all because of the surgery Quick underwent last August when doctors discovered a herniated disc in his back that was pinching a nerve. There was also an inflammatory cyst that had to come out.
While the lockout-shortened season gave him time to recover, Quick said he was still feeling discomfort during the Kings' training camp in January. At one point, it was difficult for him to get in and out of bed.
Now look at him. The Sharks three wins in the series were all by 2-1 scores. They did all they could to fluster Quick only to wind up being flustered in return.
"It's not like you expect him to make those saves," Kings' captain Dustin Brown said of the one Quick made on Pavelski. "But you expect him to make those saves, right?"
"I don't know if you'll see that type of goaltending in another series," Sharks' coach Todd McLellan said of his man, Antti Niemi, and of Quick. "It was a pretty special series for goaltending."
And in Quick, the Kings have the one player that neither Detroit nor Chicago can match, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender whose glove hand and crease work live up to his surname.
Too bad he doesn't have Canadian citizenship. He'd be a welcomed starter in Sochi for the true north strong and free.
Justin Williams, who scored twice Tuesday for the Kings, now has five goals in the four career Game 7s he has appeared in, and won. In other words, he's the guy you want buying your next lottery ticket. Mr. Scratch and Win.
Here are some other Game 7 good-luck performers:
– Henri Richard scored twice against Chicago to give the Montreal Canadiens the 1971 Cup;
– Todd Marchant scored in overtime to lead the Edmonton Oilers past the Dallas Stars in 1997;
– Pat LaFontaine scored in quadruple OT to help the New York Islanders drop the Washington Capitals in 1987;
– Wayne Gretzky scored three times to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993, a feat that put the Kings in their first Stanley Cup final. The Leafs would recover in time to blow a three-goal lead in the third period before losing in OT to the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
But we've all moved on from that.
There are some hefty, physical Penguins in the Pittsburgh line-up – 6-foot-2, 208-pound James Neal, 6-foot-3, 240-pound Douglas Murray. But no one among the Pens can match the size, strength and destructive powers of Milan Lucic, the 228-pound Boston bear.
Lucic, when he's skating, is both the irresistible force and the immovable object. Through the postseason, his play has taken its toll on the opposition. He and his linemates inflicted their will on the Leafs, scoring when needed. Against the New York Rangers, Lucic scrambled defenceman Anton Stralman, knocking him out for the balance of the series. Against the Penguins, there's business that needs to be settled.
In two regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Lucic failed to register a point. For the third, he was benched, making it the first time in five years he was a healthy scratch. That got the Vancouver native's full attention.
"I definitely think it was a turning point for me, just mentally," Lucic said of his late April adjustment. "Just kind of getting back to how I played as a rookie and playing with that high energy and high emotion. I think that's what's helped my game get back to the level where it helped this team be better."
With a team-leading 55 hits, along with 10 points in 12 postseason games, Lucic has made the Bruins dangerous, and the Penguins know it. Already, they've devised a plan on how to deal with Lucic and his ruinous ways.
"Don't (anger him) too much, I think, is the biggest key," said defenceman Brooks Orpik. "Don't wake a sleeping giant."
Still with the Bruins: defenceman Andrew Ference practised with the team Tuesday for the first time since suffering an injury to his left foot in Game 5 against Toronto. It's all but certain he'll be back in the playoff meat grinder sometime during the Boston-Pittsburgh series.
So much talk about Game 7s these days, how they feel, what they're like, from Detroit coach Mike Babcock saying he loves them to Darryl Sutter's classic response to L.A. playing in its first Game 7 since 2002, "Who cares?"
But Chicago forward Michal Handzus said it best on the team's Twitter account: "If you win, (they're) fun. If you lose … they're not."
That's so simple it's deep.