The eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings continued their magical playoff run, knocking off the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2, Sunday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
It was another impressive road win for the upstart Kings, who have been riding a tidal wave of momentum thanks to goaltender Jonathan Quick and captain Dustin Brown.
Both guys played well versus their NHL Pacific rivals, with Quick suffocating the Phoenix attack and Brown providing his seventh goal of the postseason early in the third period.
It was a rough home loss for the Desert Dogs, who desperately needed to find a way to generate more offense. They had just 27 shots on goal, and one of their two scores came from a Derek Morris miracle.
Tweets of the Night
After Morris' laser from center ice, Cover Sports contributor Travis Yost said what everyone was thinking.
I'm not sure what's more unbelievable: Jon Quick giving up that awful goal, or Derek Morris scoring it.
— Travis Yost (@TravisHeHateMe) May 14, 2012
Although the Kings dominated the shots-on-goal department, Dan Rosen of NHL.com didn't think it would be much of an issue for Phoenix.
The Coyotes have been outshot in nine of 11 games in these playoffs. They are 7-2 in those games.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) May 14, 2012
Just seconds after that tweet, Mikkel Boedker tied the score at 2-2 for the 'Yotes. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun noted that a sweet defensive play by Antoine Vermette made it all happen.
Boedker ties it up 2-2. Great play by Vermette stripping puck from Doughty behind net— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 14, 2012
But after the second intermission, Dustin Brown's filthy wrister gave L.A. a 3-2 lead. Randy Holt of Rant Sports thinks Brown has had some extra motivation during his playoff rampage.
Hey remember those Dustin Brown trade rumors? I bet he does.— Randy Holt (@RandallPnkFloyd) May 14, 2012
Although they lost, the Coyotes get the highlight of the night thanks to Derek Morris.
Grades for Key Coyotes Players
Mike Smith: C
Smith had to deal with a barrage of shots, and he managed to save a large number of them (44). Unfortunately, he wasn't good enough to slow down the Kings' offensive onslaught.
If he doesn't get some more help from his back line in Game 2, the Coyotes will be in trouble.
Antoine Vermette: B-
Vermette was solid for Phoenix. His slick play behind the net led to Boedker's goal in the second, and he also won 13 of 22 faceoffs (59.1 percent).
Add in four hits, and it was a pretty good all-around game for the center.
Grades for Key Kings Players
Jonathan Quick: B-
Quick made a couple of critical mistakes, namely allowing Morris to drain that shot from center ice.
Still, the likely Conn Smythe candidate had a good game overall, saving 25 of 27 shots (92.6 percent), including a couple of close calls in the final minutes.
He couldn't match his ridiculous playoff save average of 94.9 percent, but I don't think Kings fans will mind.
Anze Kopitar: B
Kopitar, the Kings' leading scorer during the regular season, didn't disappoint in the early going. It took him just 3:53 to find the net with a nasty backhand.
He remained active after that, taking six shots on goal. Along with Brown, Kopitar has been a major catalyst for the Kings' surprising playoff success.
Game MVP: Dustin Brown
You have to give the award to Brown after he directly contributed to two key goals.
Brown assisted on Kopitar's backhand, then provided the go-ahead score in the third period. It was another excellent game for the captain, who has been the best non-goalie in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs thus far.
If Brown continues on his current pace and form, nobody will be able to stop the Kings.
Phoenix will attempt to even the series Tuesday at home. The action kicks off at 9 p.m. Eastern, and will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.