May 17, 2012
Kings one win away from Cup final
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
LOS ANGELES - You look at these Los Angeles Kings and you wonder how an eighth-seed got here, just one win away from the Stanley Cup final.
It’s because of the way they beat the Phoenix Coyotes again Thursday night, 2-1 this time, for a 3-0 series lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference final.
It’s because of contributions they're getting up and down their lineup, from the front line to the role guys.
After Phoenix took the lead in Thursday's game, the first time they've done so this series, Anze Kopitar, L.A.'s big man in the middle, scored just over two minutes later to tie it early in the second period.
When the game was tied and waiting for somebody to grab it early in the third, it was Dwight King, one of the great stories of the post-season, a guy that was playing in the minors in January, who put his arms around it.
King, the mid-season call-up, scored his fifth of the playoffs at 1:47 of the closing frame to put the Kings on top and in control. He wheeled out of the corner after a battle won by L.A.’s Trevor Lewis and found a remarkable amount of room in front of the Coyotes net.
“I was surprised. I won’t lie,” King said. “Coming out (of the corner), I assumed I was going to make a pass out of the play and they gave me that extra foot and I took it.”
The, Kings, now 11-1 this post-season, can close out the series and punch their ticket to the final with a win Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center.
Then there was Jarret Stoll, the veteran Kings who was relentless and all over the ice Thursday. He jumped on a turnover by Coyotes defenceman Mike Stone that started the sequence resulting in King’s winner.
“(Stoll) really stood out for me with his jump. He jumped by two guys, drawing a penalty on one. He had opportunities left and right and, again, that’s part of the reason we’re a successful team right now,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We have everyone going and different nights, different players elevate their games.”
This game started out looking like the Coyotes might finally be in the mood to play after a couple of shaky performances in the first two games.
The Coyotes scored a minute into the second when Daymond Langkow took advantage of a seam created when the Kings spread out too wide apart in the neutral zone. Langkow took a pass from Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle and got a step between the Kings defensive duo of Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov.
Langkow skated down the slot and managed a to squeeze a shot between Kings goalie Jonathan Quick’s pads.
The lead was short lived, however, as Kopitar showed his slick hands just a minute and seven seconds later when he went into the Coyotes zone on a break of his own after a pass from Brown. Kopitar beat Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith through the five-hole at 3:10 of the period.
Langkow's goal was his first of the playoffs as he got bumped up the lineup in the absence of suspended forward Martin Hanzal, out for a game because of his hit from behind on Brown in Game 2. Langkow played on a line with Radim Vrbata and Taylor Pyatt.
With Hanzal out, Kyle Chipchura was moved into the middle of the fourth line and Paul Bissonnette was inserted into the lineup.
The Coyotes didn’t like the way they played in the first two games of this series. They were better Thursday and the Kings, well, maybe they weren’t quite as good as they had been.
The Coyotes got the start they wanted and still lost.
A better start, but, when it was over, the same ending.