Coyotes can't solve Kings
Fall 4-2 as series opens in the desert
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown celebrates his third period goal against the Phoenix Coyotes with teammate Anze Kopitar during Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference hockey finals in Glendale, Arizona. (REUTERS)
GLENDALE, ARIZ. - One of the great things about the NHL playoffs is the matchup game.
Some coaches don’t make a big deal about it, not wanting to disrupt their own team’s momentum or rhythm.
Other coaches -- the late Pat Burns comes to mind -- can be fanatical about getting the matchups they think give their team an advantage.
One thing became clear rather quickly in the Los Angeles Kings’ 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in the opening game of the Western Conference final Sunday: Coyotes coach Dave Tippett needs to find an answer for the Kings’ line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.
The Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues, both vanquished by the Kings, never did.
The line had two of the three Kings goals Sunday night, including the winner by Brown on a breakaway two minutes into the third period.
These playoffs have been a coming out party for Brown, the Kings’ 27-year-old captain.
“I think he’s playing his best hockey since I’ve been here and that’s six years,” said Kopitar. “You realize we need him to play like that in order to be successful. Right now he’s clicking on the ice and making plays and getting the bounces and scoring the big goals. That’s what good captains and good leaders do.”
“He’s an alright player, yeah,” said Kings forward Jarret Stoll, who shared the podium at the post-game press conference with Brown. “He’s doing it all for us, both ends of the rink, too.”
The Kopitar line had some dominating shifts as Tippett opted for most of the night to play big Martin Hanzal, veteran Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata against the Kings’ trio.
“I didn’t see it as just the Kopitar line. I thought their whole team was better than our team,” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. “We weren’t close in that game. We got beat in every facet of the game. Hopefully we take some lessons from it and we can be better next game.
“I’m worried about our team. We got players that I have to worry about getting playing better, not worry about Kopitar," Tippett concluded.
Brown’s winner came on a nifty pass by Kings defenceman Slava Voynov up the middle, slicing through a triangle of Coyotes in the netural zone and sending Brown in between Phoenix defencemen Rusty Klesla and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He beat Smith with a snapshot to the stick side.
The pass by Voynov was a dandy and was a shining example of why the Kings thought Jack Johnson was expendable in the deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets that brought Jeff Carter to the Kings.
Brown, who now has seven goals in these playoffs, had a game-high seven shots on the night. Kopitar (six) and Williams (two) chipped in another eight for 15 of the Kings’ 48 shots on the night.
The Kings survived goaltender Jonathan Quick giving up a goal on a 98-foot shot by Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris that tied it 1-1 in the first period to go on to their sixth win in as many games on the road in these playoffs.
Despite being outshot by wide margin, some good hustle by Coyotes centre Antoine Vermette allowed Phoenix to tie the game 2-2 with two minutes to go in the second period. Vermette caused a turnover that led to a goal by Mikkael Boedker.
Dwight King had two goals for the Kings, one on a 2-on-1 to make it 2-1 and the other into an empty net.
Matchups and adjustments become so important at this time of the season.
The Coyotes will have figure out what to do about Brown, Kopitar and Williams for Game 2 on Tuesday to avoid joining the Canucks and Blues, who never did.