Jeff Carter single-handedly pulled the Los Angeles Kings out of the Phoenix Coyotes’ reach Tuesday night, tallying three goals on as many shots between the 4:47 mark of the second period and 12:56 of the third period.
The natural hat trick amounted to a 4-0 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, which the Kings now lead 2-0 as the scene shifts to their own pond at the Staples Center.
As it happened, Carter’s first goal aroused a self-feeding monster for his Kings and self-destructing behavior for the opposing Coyotes. When he swooped to the porch of the Phoenix net to tap in a forward pass by Dustin Penner, he spawned the first two-goal deficit in the Coyotes’ playoff run that did not come by virtue of an empty-netter.
After 10 minutes and 10 seconds of vain, uneventful endeavors to recompense the deficit, Phoenix began to swell up its penalty-minute tab with 5:03 remaining in the middle frame. The result was 11 minutes and 32 seconds of power-play time for Los Angeles out of the final 25:03 of game action.
Carter, who only saw 8:48 of even-strength time but 7:44 on the power play, would pounce on a pair of five-on-three segments induced by boarding majors and various minor infractions.
With 1:11 remaining in the second, Daymond Langkow was off for slashing while Coyotes captain Shane Doan was tossed for a hit from behind on Trevor Lewis. In the waning seconds of the two-man advantage, Carter served as the screen while Anze Kopitar absorbed Justin Williams’ feed from the far corner.
Kopitar’s wrister from the inner hash marks brushed off Carter’s boot and to the right of goaltender Mike Smith, giving the February import from Columbus credit for his second goal.
It only took 13 seconds for Carter to make Phoenix pay for another set of overlapping penalties. Martin Hanzal’s five-minute sentence for boarding was not yet half-over and Derek Morris had just sat down for kneeing when Carter deftly absorbed Dustin Brown’s rebound and raked it home with 7:04 left in regulation.
Between the 2011-12 regular season and postseason, Carter now has three hat tricks on the year. Tuesday’s was his first as a King and his first since what proved to be his final game as a Blue Jacket on Feb. 21.
The last King to tally three goals in a single playoff game? Someone by the name of Wayne Gretzky, who logged three goals and an assist as part of a 5-4 victory over the host Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference finals. That cemented LA’s first and only Stanley Cup finals berth to date.
Carter’s trick hasn’t quite accomplished the same feat for this franchise. But it certainly emboldens its feasibility.