By Dave Vest LOS ANGELES -- The Coyotes came up a point short in their bid to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night at the Staples Center. Needing two points to secure a postseason bid, Phoenix earned only one with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings. With the win, LA became the fourth Western Conference team to qualify for the playoffs.
The Coyotes (42-25-13) end their season with a home-and-home series against San Jose on Friday and Saturday and need just one point, or one lost point by Dallas, to qualify for the playoff for the second year in a row.
The Coyotes led 2-1 after one period but couldn't hold the lead. Kyle Clifford's goal late in the second period (see KEY MOMENT) tied the score at 2, and then Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped two of three Phoenix shots in the shootout to improve his record to 10-0 in the tiebreaker. Michal Handzus and Jarret Stoll beat Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with wrist shots in the shootout.
"We did everything we could to win the game," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We made a couple of mistakes on their goals, but in the end we competed hard and tried to find a win. Unfortunately we only got one point. We've got to find our way into the playoffs in the last two games."
Leading 2-1 in the shootout, LA's Dustin Brown hit the post in the third round to give the Coyotes a chance to tie. But Quick stopped Lauri Korpikoski's shot to end the game and help the Kings (46-28-6) set a franchise record with 46 victories.
Stoll gave the Kings a 1-0 lead at 12:21 of the first period when he backhanded a nifty pass from Brown past Bryzgalov. Brown created the scoring chance with some dazzling puckhandling through Phoenix’s zone.
Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak evened the score 1-1 less than two minutes after Stoll’s goal. Taylor Pyatt set up Stempniak’s team-leading 19th goal by feeding him a perfect pass in the slot from behind the Kings net.
Stempniak then helped Phoenix take a 2-1 lead with a high shot that ricocheted off Quick and directly to Pyatt, who swept the rebound past Quick with ease at 17:58 of the first period.
"It's a win that you want to have and that's a hard game to win," Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said. "The guys stepped up. It was a fun game to coach tonight."
Trailing 2-1, LA tied the score with 2:57 left in the second period.
Kings forward Wayne Simmonds carried the puck up the right side and around Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle as he entered Pheonix's zone. Simmonds then passed the puck to Kyle Clifford at the top of the crease, and Clifford redirected it past Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
• Defenseman Ed Jovanovski returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering fractured orbital bones in a game played on Feb. 17. Jovanovski logged 17:54 of ice time, and took two shots on goal and blocked two shots. Meanwhile, forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt also returned to the lineup after missing recent games because of upper-body injuries. Korpikoski took three shots on goal, and Pyatt had a goal and an assist.
• Through 80 games, the Coyotes are the only team in the league not to have a 20-goal scorer. Phoenix does have 10 players with at least 10 goals. Captain Shane Doan and winger Lee Stempniak co-lead the team with 19 goals.
• Winger Radim Vrbata scored Phoenix's lone shootout goal. He is 7 for 11 in shootouts this season.
• The Coyotes' next game is Friday vs. San Jose at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on 3TV and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"It's a big point. But when you come all the way out here, you want to find a way to get both of them. We've been close, we've been around it, but we just haven't found ways to win games."
"It was a tight checking game and a close game... It seems like we didn't do enough really. At times it felt like we took over the game, but we didn't do it for 60 minutes. "
"Our goal is obviously to make the playoffs. The home-ice is there for us and these last two games are a big test for us, and getting our game to where we want it to be for playoffs. If we do that we’ll probably have home-ice because of it."