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The Phoenix Coyotes left their game against the LA Kings on Sunday the same way they entered it. 60 minutes away from elimination. For the first time in the Western Conference Final, Phoenix displayed a sustained aggressive forecheck of their own combined with the will to win puck battles and better passing. Add in the Desert Dogs Captain Shane Doan playing like a man possessed and Mike Smith continuing his outstanding play on the road in the playoffs and it added up to a 2-0 Coyotes victory.
While the game started omniously for Yotes fans when Ray Whitney was called for holding just over a minute into the game, the guys from Glendale looked like a determined lot from the time the puck dropped. Even when LA was winning the scoring chances battle early on the Yotes looked composed and weren't turning the puck over with the frequency they had in earlier games. Doan scored the first goal of the game less than 30 seconds after a cheap call on the Kings Justin Williams gave the Coyotes a power play. Doan lifted a gorgeous backhand shot over LA goalie Jonathan Quick.
Doan added a second goal midway through the 2nd period off a faceoff win by his center Antoine Vermette and a Kings deflection. The shot wasn't called a goal initially. After the puck came out of the net play continued. At the next whistle the play was reviewed and Doan was rightly credited with the goal. From that point forwarded the Yotes appeared in complete control of the contest. Even when the Kings got scoring chances later in the 2nd and 3rd periods they almost all were plays where Smith wasn't screened and/or any rebound was cleaned up immediately.
- The Kings continue to get short handed chances. Having Keith Yandle and Ray Whitney on the point together isn't the recipe for stopping those kinds of chances.
- The Refs seemed set on making sure the game didn't get out of control. They were calling anything that might even resemble an infraction. The Justin Williams call that led to Doan's power play goal was the weakest of the lot.
- Doan's 1st period tally was the Coyotes first power play goal since Radim Vrbata's wrister in Game 1 of the series against the Predators.
- The Coyotes were called for 3 penalties in the 1st 10 minutes of the game, but their penalty kill continued its amazing showing this postseason as the Kings were unable to convert on the resulting two power plays.
Taylor Pyatt has quietly been the best Coyote skater during the entire series. He's skated hard and met the King's physical play head on.
- The Prime Line was quiet most of the game. They did seem to have more jump late in the 3rd period, especially Ray Whitney.
- Speaking of Hanzal's line, when they were on the ice with the Yandle/.Morris pairing the Kings appeared to get their best offensive pushes in the game.
- Boedker-Vermette-Doan was the Yotes best line. They did a great job possessing the puck and even when LA had the puck the line disrupted the Kings ability to get off clean passes and shots. Vermette won 12 of his 18 draws including the one that set up the second goal of the game.
- Mikkel Boedker shielded the puck from multiple Kings defenders at one time on more than one occasion during the game.
- Young defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson once again led Phoenix skaters in TOI. He was on the ice for 24:53.
- All 5 Kings who took draws in the game were had face off percentages of 50% or higher. Daymond Langkow was a large reason for this as he won only 1 of his 11 draws.
Five For Winning
1. No time to panic. Yes, Phoenix is in the biggest hole imaginable in the playoffs. However, they need to focus all their efforts every shift on making smart plays with the puck. This is especially true if the Kings get a lead. The Yotes have had a tendency to make mistakes when things have been going against them in this series whether it be taking needless penalties, unnecessarily turning the puck over, or running around in their own end instead of sticking with their assignments. The Yotes did a much better job of passing, especially in their own zone. They still need to cut down on the needless penalties. 8 penalties is way too many. The PK has been outstanding, but eventually they are going to give up goals.
2. Manage body clocks. The Noon start is the earliest one Phoenix has had all season. The players can ill afford to be sluggish to start the game by getting in early hole on the scoreboard. The Coyotes looked ready to play from the time the puck was dropped. Most of the Kings, not so much. Can we move the start times for Games 5 and 6 to Noon?
3. Rubber on goal. Sounds simple enough, but the Desert Dogs aren't doing it enough this series. They are averaging just over 23 shots on goal a game while LA is averaging over 38 hots per game. While the numbers looked about the same as the rest of the series, the Kings struggled to get follow up shots. The Yotes closed down the middle of the ice in front of their goalie.
4. Crash the net. The Coyotes still aren't making life miserable for Jonathan Quick. He must be forced to scramble and see through screens. Noticeable improvement. The Vermette and Langkow lines continually drove the net hard.
5. Hope for Kings letdown. Yes, it has come to this. Maybe the Kings will be looking ahead or maybe they just have tickets to the Clippers vs. Spurs game and want to make sure they are showered and can eat dinner before tip off. Sure looked like one.
Comment Of The Afternoon
Our Three Stars Of The Game
1. Shane Doan - 2 goals. The Captain led by example.
2. Mike Smith - No goals allowed on 36 shots. Continues his impressive play on the road.
3. Trevor Lewis - Beat Smith, but hit the post in the 2nd period. Two shorthanded scoring opportunities.
The Coyotes will look to build on the improvements they made on Sunday when they face the Kings in Game 5. The game will be played Tuesday back in Glendale at 6 p.m. MST. If Phoenix can stay aggressive while spending less time in the box maybe they can truly climb back into the series. Expect the Kings to come out hitting anything that moves Tuesday night, especially guys like Justin Williams and Dustin Brown.