Just because most folks may not be familiar with seeing the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals, doesn’t mean the Pacific Division foes aren’t. Which is a good thing, as familiarity tends to breed contempt. Another phrase to describe these two clubs, relentless. That was a major theme of Game One in the desert.
Much of the first frame saw Los Angeles setting the tone by finishing their checks and out-shooting Phoenix in the early going. It wasn’t until around the 13 minute mark that the Coyotes actually registered a shot. Although a couple of things ran contrary to conventional wisdom. The first being that the Kings didn’t show any letdown on offense, even though Mike Smith continually stymied them despite getting peppered. On the opposite end, Jonathan Quick was actually hurt by not getting into an early rhythm.
In that first, the Kings struck first. Anze Kopitar swooped in and took a back pass from Dustin Brown. Kopitar backhanded the puck past a screened Smith and notched his fourth of the playoffs.
Although L.A. out-shot Phoenix by a count of 17-4 in the first, Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris made his count with a boom. Morris from near the red line, drilled one by an unsuspecting Quick and knotted the contest at one. It was quite the impressive blast from center ice and for Morris, its second tally of these playoffs.
During the second the Kings went back to their transition game and it paid dividends. Dwight King started the breakout off the boards and was handsomely rewarded. That allowed Mike Richards to spring loose down the ice, with King jumping into the play. Richards shot one off the right pad of Smith and King followed up by burying the fat rebound for his second of the post-season and the second L.A. marker. Again the Kings getting contributions from every line.
However the resilient Coyotes would jump on a Kings miscue late in the period. Quick, playing the puck behind the net to Drew Doughty, set the puck a little too still behind the cage. That allowed Antoine Vermette to jump in and jar the puck loose to Shane Doan, who in turn fed Mikkel Boedker for his fourth of the playoffs, tying the game once again.
Yet Los Angeles would respond early in the third. As he did in the first two round, captain Brown would make a major impact once again. Off a beautiful down ice head man pass from Slava Voynov, Brown burst through, virtually uncontested and bested Smith for his seventh tally of the playoffs and the eventual winner.
Hostilities continued to ramp up and King buried an empty netter for good measure, making it a 4-2 final. Hence, Los Angeles grabs a 1-0 series lead and improves its flawless post-season road mark to 6-0.
Three Stars: My three stars for this one, 1.) Dustin Brown (1-1-2) GWG, 2.) Mike Smith (44 SVS), 3.) Dwight King (2-0-2).
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.