The Los Angeles Kings moved to within a game of sweeping of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 win last night in Phoenix. The Coyotes came out and played hard, even got a brief lead, but in the end there’s too much talent on Los Angeles for this series to turn around.
After a scoreless first period, Phoenix scored early in the second. But as happens so often to a team swimming upstream, things immediately turned back against them. LA center Anze Kopitar scored the tying goal two minutes later and then Dwight King got the game-winner in the third.
Give Phoenix their due—they came out firing with 11 shots in the first period, they eventually scored first, and they killed all five Los Angeles power plays. Overall they played their best team defensive game of the series, keeping the Kings under 30 shots, after the number had exceeded 40 in the first two. But the lack of offense is stunning—not just the lack of goals, which isn’t surprising given the quality of goaltending at this level of the postseason. But that the Coyotes can’t even get their best players remotely involved in the offense. Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan combined for two shots last night. If the three had two shots apiece I’d be hitting these same themes. Two as a group is mindblowing. Compare it to LA center Kopitar who got four cracks at the net by himself.
A better series in the East resumes
tonight (actually the game is Saturday, there is no NHL on Friday night) when the New York Rangers go to New Jersey with the series tied 1-1. The Devils were able to keep the Rangers’ best players—notably Marian Gaborik off the puck in Game 2 and that’s going to continue as a key throughout this series. New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist has alternated between decent and outstanding performances through this postseason. He’s coming off a decent game in defeat on Wednesday, so the trends say he’ll be locked in tonight.