Coyotes lose their cool in the desert
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
|Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, left, is checked by Phoenix Coyotes right wing Shane Doan in front of the Coyotes net in the 2nd period during Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference hockey finals in Glendale, Arizona, May 22, 2012. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- So much for the conspiracy theorists out there who cluttered up my mailbox with their notion the NHL was trying to cut its losses with the Phoenix Coyotes by having referees give them a boost.
The Coyotes -- in particular captain Shane Doan -- lost their minds over the non-call on a hit by Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown on defenceman Michal Rozsival in overtime of Game 5 Tuesday night. Moments later, Dustin Penner scored to end both the game and the series in the Kings' favour.
Seeing the knee-on-knee contact and then Rozsival being helped of the ice was the last straw for the Coyotes, who felt they were getting the raw end of the officiating.
The Coyotes were also irked over what they thought was a missed delay-of-game call on the Kings in overtime when the puck was shot over the glass.
"I'm not going to sit here and complain and whine about refereeing," Coyotes veteran forward Ray Whitney said.
"The one the guy chipped over the glass in overtime, the replay showed -- the refs don't have that advantage -- it was obvious. It felt like we were in a big uphill battle out there, to be honest."
The Coyotes had a remarkable run this spring against the backdrop of the uncertainty of their future in the valley before losing 4-3 Tuesday night.
Doan's eyes flashed and his voice reverberated with the emotion of the moment during his post-game scrum, the realization that the franchise's best playoff run was over amid the frustration of how it ended.
"Uncle. Are you freaking kidding me? Uncle," -- Doan's response to there being no penalty on the Brown hit -- will be one of the quotes of this year's playoffs.
That will be the sound bite that sums up the finish to the Coyotes season.
"It wasn't the ending we would have wanted with the situation with Rozy getting hurt, hurting his knee and them scoring the next shift," Whitney said. "Obviously, we were up in arms a little bit and a little flustered by that. It was definitely a disappointing way to end it. "We were all pretty upset about it -- whenever you see a teammate leave the ice injured, especially a guy (Brown) who hits hard like that.
"(Brown) doesn't need to hit opportunistic like that when the whistle had gone ... he probably could have pulled up."
Losing in five games was a bitter ending for the Coyotes, obscuring, for a little while, anyway, an unexpectedly fine season.
"This group did a lot of great things with some uncertainty surrounding it, the ownership, the players that we have, the payroll that we have ... when you look at the word team, this is what you see," Whitney said, standing the middle of the quiet Coyotes dressing room. "Everybody has to contribute, everybody has to chip in or it's not going to be successful. I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys who stuck together all year long, barely made it into the playoffs and made it to the conference final. This is not where we want to be, but we're proud of what we did."
Now the Coyotes will have to wait to see if the purchase that would see a group fronted by former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison goes through.
Whitney said the players had done a good job of parking the speculation about their futures, but it will now be tough to avoid.
"This team has been very focused and doing a good job of leaving that outside the game," he said. "Now that you say that, we'll probably all reflect on it during the next couple of days -- will we be here, will we not?
"I think as a group, we certainly did the best that we could to try to bring the excitement of hockey back here in the desert. Hopefully it will all work out."