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By Corey Masisak | NHL.com
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings are on a roll right now, getting contributions from pivotal players and ancillary guys alike. The result is a 3-0 lead over the Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals, leaving them one win from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 19 years.
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continued their torrid postseason on Thursday night, but the members of the third line took starring roles as the Kings defeated Phoenix, 2-1, at the Staples Center to earn their eighth straight victory.
Phoenix scored first, but the Kings answered soon after and then dominated the third period to take a commanding lead in the series. Los Angeles can complete its second straight series sweep and reserve a place in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the days of Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille with a victory here Sunday afternoon.
"It's exciting, I think for everyone in here," Brown said. "There's a lot of guys that haven't experienced this and a lot of guys that have. The thing that's made us successful as a team is handling that success. We've put ourselves up 3-0 again. It's not only an opportunity but now a responsibility to prepare ourselves to have a good game."
The Coyotes have thrived by playing with a "nobody believes in us" mentality to make an unprecedented and unexpected run to the conference finals. But they have been overmatched for lengthy stretches during this series.
Several players and Head Coach Dave Tippett said after the contest that this was their best effort of the three, but the Kings smothered them in the final 38 minutes and they needed great goaltending just to keep the scoreline from inflating in the final period.
"We know what we have to do. We have to win the next game," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "I mean, that's all -- we have to play better and find a way to win the next one. ... We're disappointed we're down 3-0, but this is a pretty resilient group."
Dwight King put Los Angeles in front 1:47 into the final period (see KEY MOMENT), capping a great shift as the Kings' third line, led by center Jarret Stoll, had a huge night while causing havoc for the Coyotes' defense corps.
After a scoreless first 20 minutes, the Coyotes took their first lead of the series 63 seconds into the middle period. Keith Yandle hit Daymond Langkow with an outlet pass that split the Los Angeles defense pairing of Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov and sent the center in alone on goal. Langkow's shot trickled through goaltender Jonathan Quick's legs for his first tally of this year's playoffs -- and his first postseason goal since April 20, 2008.
Langkow had moved up in the lineup from the fourth line for this contest to replace Martin Hanzal, who was suspended by the League for a game after a hit from behind on Brown late in third period of Game 2.
Phoenix had controlled the play early in the first period, but wasn't about to solve Quick until early in the second. Quick's shutout streak, which dated to the second period of Game 1, was snapped at 102:58. He finished with 18 saves.
The Kings' first deficit since Game 1 of the second round against St. Louis lasted just 2:07. Just as they did several times against the Blues, the Kings answered with a goal against with one of their own in short order.
Brown sent Kopitar on a breakaway with a long outlet pass, and the Slovenian center coolly slipped a backhander between Smith's legs at 3:10.
|Photo by Getty Images.|
"It's obviously great to limit their momentum," King said. "It's great to see the guys capitalize when the opportunities come. We didn't have a great start and for (Kopitar) to get that goal and tie it up, that was great for our team."
The Coyotes had never reached the conference finals in the history of the franchise. They have two days to try to figure out how to slow the Los Angeles juggernaut and get this series back to Arizona for Game 5.
"We'll take a couple days here and rest up," Tippett said. "What do we got to lose? Might as well come and play as hard as we can. They say, ‘One game at a time.' We got nothing to lose. We might as well come and make sure we give a real honest evaluation of who we are and how we got here. It's as simple as that. Play as hard as we can, we'll see what happens."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
|Photo by Getty Images|
|Shane Doan Roughing against Jarret Stoll|
|Derek Morris Roughing against Jarret Stoll|
|Alec Martinez Cross checking against Shane Doan|
|Michal Rozsival Hi-sticking against Jarret Stoll|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson Cross checking against Dustin Brown|
|Drew Doughty Holding against Shane Doan|
|Shane Doan Holding against Drew Doughty|
|Radim Vrbata Slashing against Anze Kopitar|
|SA: 28||TOI: 59:26|
|Saves: 26||EV: 20 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: .929||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 19||TOI: 59:59|
|Saves: 18||EV: 16 - 17|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .947||SH: 2 - 2|