Found May 20, 2012 on
Fox Sports West:
There may be a few dents in the Los Angeles Kings' seemingly impenetrable shell, after all.
By dropping a 2-0 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center, the Kings lost for the first time in over a month and showed that home close-out games while nursing a three-games-to-none series lead don't necessarily bring out the best of their recent playoff abilities. Though they held 3-0 leads in both of their first two series, Vancouver won Game 4 in Los Angeles on April 18, and St. Louis' desperate efforts were adequately contained in a narrow 3-1 Kings win on May 3.
With the loss, the Kings were unsuccessful in their attempt to become the first team to make the Stanley Cup Finals having lost only one game since the league expanded to a best-of-seven format in all rounds for the 1987 postseason. Instead, on Tuesday night they'll vie to become the first team since the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the Finals in only 14 games.
Their suspect body of work in home close out games wasn't accurately reflected in their 36-21 shot advantage. Though Los Angeles attempted 76 shots to Phoenix's 44, too many efforts came from the outside, without enough traffic in front, and without the second and third chances that are so crucial towards beating a quality goaltender such as Mike Smith.
"It wasn't good enough," Dustin Penner said of the team's offensive efforts. "You talk about screening, tip, rebound, and we didn't get enough of that tonight. We let him see too many pucks, and we didn't get enough second and third chances."
"It was just kind of one and done."
The Kings also lost the special teams battle on Sunday, allowing Phoenix's first power play goal of the series while producing an 0-for-6 effort themselves. Los Angeles was again impotent on the power play where they're 6-for-70 this postseason and relied too heavily on outside blasts without the proper net presence, screens and redirections that can lead to the proverbial "greasy" goal or two.
"You have to shoot for sticks," Justin Williams said. "If you don't think you can get the puck through, our forwards have got to get available. They seem to front every puck today, especially wristshots. We got a lot of shots on net, but I think we had just as many blocked. Hats off to them for playing a good game, blocking shots, playing well for their goalie."
If there's any solace for a power play that is a remarkably ineffective 1-for-30 at home, it's that the Boston Bruins were 5-for-61 on the man advantage through three rounds last postseason before "erupting" for five goals in their seven-game series win against Vancouver.
The Kings still have work to do before they can even start thinking about a hypothetical next round, though while faced with a similar situation in the first round against the Canucks, they responded admirably by battling from behind after entering the third period trailing by a goal, eventually winning their first playoff series in 11 years on Jarret Stoll's overtime game-winner. It was the third of seven consecutive road victories this postseason.
"We are still in a good position," Anze Kopitar said. "That's why we have to hit the reset button, refocus, and make sure we have a lot of energy for Tuesday."
Their playoff road success will be balanced by a Coyotes team that has some life and momentum for the first time in a series that up until Sunday afternoon had tilted so heavily towards L.A.
"We recognize we put ourselves in a tough position," said captain Shane Doan, who scored both of Phoenix's goals. "We also know it has been done. I guess that's what sports are all about, trying to do something that someone hasn't done for a while, try to do things that the odds are kind of stacked against you. Nobody wants to be in the position we're in, but everybody wants to prove they can kind of answer that call."
It may have been a characteristically poor afternoon showing Los Angeles was 0-3-1 in matinees during the regular season, with three of the four losses incurred to NHL Draft lottery teams Columbus, Montreal and the New York Islanders but a three-games-to-one series lead and an established confidence of winning road playoff games still presents a major challenge for the Coyotes, who will expect a more thorough Kings effort on Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz.
"What are we now, 11-2?" Dustin Penner asked rhetorically.
"I wouldn't question our will."
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