It was a play early in the first period of Thursday's Game 3 between the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes that was a sign of things to come.
Kings forward Jarret Stoll hit Coyotes captain Shane Doan with just enough annoyance to cause Doan to retaliate with a punch to Stoll’s head. It was a terrible penalty for Doan to take so early in a must-win game, and it ended up propelling Stoll to a magnificent outing.
Stoll set up Dwight King’s game-winning goal in the third, and now the Kings are all but guaranteed to reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time since the 1992-93 season after a 2-1 victory to take a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference final.
Doan really has a penchant for playing not only on the edge but going over it as well on too many occasions, like when he was kicked out of Game 2 for a check from behind on L.A.'s Trevor Lewis. Lewis did turn at the last second on the hit, but Doan needs to be more careful and more disciplined. Considering the Coyotes desperately needed to win Game 3, the fact their captain took a bad penalty that early in the contest just doesn’t make any sense and had to be maddening for the coaching staff.
It was a smart play by Stoll to get under Doan’s skin on Thursday. Did the Kings perhaps have a hunch Doan might react that way? The Coyotes captain was rather invisible the rest of the game, too.
VRBATA'S VERY BAD NIGHT
Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata did not have a good game on Thursday.
Phoenix's leading goal-scorer in the regular season, Vrbata didn’t seem to have much jump in this one. His worst play of the game was a terrible pass to rookie defenceman Michael Stone that led to L.A.’s eventual game-winning goal early in the third period. Then, just for good measure, he took a penalty with 41.3 seconds left in regulation when the Coyotes were trying to get the equalizer.
Speaking of that go-ahead tally, it was Dwight King’s fifth playoff goal, matching his total from the regular season. He is just one of many Kings players that is clicking at the perfect time.
THE JERK STORE CALLED ...
Another day, another John Tortorella press conference that left more people talking about the curt New York Rangers coach rather than his team's series against the New Jersey Devils.
Tortorella said he was going to “keep it in the room” after the Rangers lost 3-2 to the Devils in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night. That led to quite the backlash from the media.
“Hey, I’m talking to you now, my media brethren: just boycott his tired act,” the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater wrote. “Quit sitting there being played for the fool by this jerk already. Yeah, I called him a jerk. So what? He calls us in the media that stuff every day. Quit sitting around and taking it.”
Boycotting Tortorella would be giving him what he wants, so the media covering the series probably shouldn’t go that route.
One question, though: Do Rangers fans care that he doesn’t tell them what they probably want to know, like why Marian Gaborik was on the bench with the Blueshirts down a goal late in the third period on Wednesday?
HUNG OUT TO DRY
So it took only a month and a half for Edmonton Oilers management to figure out they didn’t want Tom Renney as their head coach anymore? Talk about letting a guy hang out to dry.
The NHL should follow the NFL’s lead and have “Firing Monday” or “Firing Tuesday,” when teams can coaches at will one or two days after the regular season ends.
Considering how young the Oilers roster is, didn’t Renney deserve a little more time to see if he could get the team going in the right direction?
THIS AND THAT
Spare me the “Los Angeles is a great hockey town when they’re winning” talk. Albuquerque would be a great hockey town if they had a winning NHL team. It’s basically an insult to hockey fans in southern California, who, if you believe the numbers, have been excellent supporters of the Kings for the last decade despite not much winning … Then again, the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles incorrectly used the Sacramento Kings logo on a news broadcast earlier this week instead of the L.A. Kings emblem. So basically either side has an argument about whether L.A. is a good hockey town … It’s nice to see Taylor Pyatt, who apparently had his best game as a Coyote in Game 1, having success in Phoenix. If you weren’t aware, his fiancee was killed in a car crash a few years ago while she was on vacation. Pyatt played for Vancouver at the time, but his fresh start in Arizona appears to have helped ease the pain … In case you were wondering, Phoenix's Stone, who was appearing in just his second playoff game Thursday night, is the less famous older brother of Senators prospect and former Brandon Wheat Kings sniper Mark Stone … One of the hardest hits Thursday night was an unaware Dustin Penner accidentally head butting one of the Kings trainers in the head when he returned to the bench … Pet peeve: The girl in the BlackBerry commercial says she wouldn’t be able to write 1,000 e-mails a day on a touch screen phone. Yeah, right. If anyone writes 1,000 e-mails in a day, I’m Sidney Crosby. If the average e-mail took one minute to write and send, it would take her nearly 17 hours to write 1,000 e-mails … Hands up everyone who was unable to sleep last night after Slovakia knocked Canada out of the world championship. That’s what I thought.