Coyotes Bite Back Kings to Send Series Back to Phoenix
It was a bit premature to crown the ascension of the Kings. For the second time in this playoff run that began 39 days ago, the Kings have been staved off from sweeping a team. Like Vancouver did in Game 4 at STAPLES Center in the first round series, so too the Phoenix Coyotes have found a couple of breaths of precious life in their season with their 2-0 victory.
"The desperation that they have, we didn't match it," Anze Kopitar admitted. "Bottom line: we didn't get it done."
The Kings had an eager vocal crowd that shockingly showed up hours early before the puck drop due to all the street closures for the Amgen Tour of California. Not even that could wake the Kings up from what head coach Darryl Sutter deresively called a "pajama party" in the past. The normal forechecking game of the Kings broke down to giveaways. The puck battles the Kings had been winning went the opposite way.
"It's the puck battles that make the difference in the game," Kings' captain Dustin Brown said. "They were winning more of them over the course of the game. It was a harder game for our defensemen."
Even the NHL officials seemed asleep at the job when they credited Dustin Brown with a power-play goal early in the first period. Silly NHL. The Kings with a power-play goal? Of the two power-play goals the Kings scored in 21 chances this series, both had been with the two-man advantage.
That's not to say Sutter didn't try to tweak things. In the first period he went with a four-forward line of Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown for a shift. In the second period he went with Kopitar, Richards, Brown and Jeff Carter. They know what they need to do.
"We can put more bodies in front of the net," Kopitar explained "Simplify a little bit. We've got to make sure that our shots get through and that we do hit the net when we do get the opportunity for shooting."
But still they came up with goose eggs when they needed it most.
"Tonight the power play, we had looks up top, we took too much time," Sutter noted. "We basically never really looked at it, but I'm going to bet that [Boyd] Gordon, [Antoine] Vermette and probably [Taylor] Pyatt blocked more shots, pucks just hitting them in the pads. Quite honestly, that's poor shooting on our part from up top from guys that are supposed to take that shot.
I suppose the Kings' machine that has been dismantling opponents throughout this run had to be given a day off, that an opponent would have one last gasp and escape the ignominy of the goose egg in the win column. Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith came up with 36 saves in his third playoff shutout of his career.
"Tonight we had nothing to lose," Smith said. "We had to make sure we played our best game. That would give us a chance to win."
It also helped that a questionable goaltender interference call on Justin Williams was called. The penalty kill of the Kings that had just killed off 30 straight penalties finally crashed back to earth, Coyotes' captain Shane Doan backhanding a shot past Jonathan Quick.
Then a clear faceoff win by Antoine Vermette midway through the second period gave Doan his second goal of the game.
By the time the Kings picked up the intensity in the third period, the Coyotes had the confidence to match it with Smith stopping any hint of a Kings' comeback. Jonathan Quick made 19 saves for the game while Trevor Lewis led the team with five hits to go along with five shots-on-goal.
Throughout the week the Kings had been talking about how well they've handled adversity. It's only one game, and it's unlikely the Coyotes will join the three teams in NHL history that have come back from an 0-3 deficit. After all the Kings are still 11-2 in the playoffs.
Now the series heads back to Glendale basically just a hop, skip and jump away from the Dodgers' spring training facility at Camelback Ranch.