NHL Playoffs 2012: Phoenix Coyotes Stay Alive with 2-0 Shutout over L.A. Kings

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Phoenix Coyotes Stay Alive with 2-0 Shutout over L.A. Kings
Rich Lam/Getty Images

The crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles was ready for a party, but the Phoenix Coyotes played spoiler on Sunday with a 2-0 shutout victory over the Kings.

Shane Doan had both goals for Phoenix, while goalie Mike Smith was busy—stopping all 36 shots the Kings fired his way.

The game marks L.A.'s second loss of these playoffs, as the series now shifts back to Arizona on Tuesday for Game 5.

With the way the Kings have been rolling in this postseason, it was almost a given that the Clarence Campbell Bowl would be presented after the game. But the idea that the fourth game of a series is the hardest to win does have some truth behind it, especially for a conference championship.

Players were probably busy ensuring that their family, friends and VIPs were in the building to share in the moment. This creates both a distraction and additional pressure.

Furthermore, Los Angeles was in a state of particular chaos today. In addition to the Kings sharing Staples Center with the NBA's Lakers and Clippers this weekend, the Amgen Tour of California bike race also cut through the streets outside the arena on Sunday morning.

Any game that starts at noon is a real disruption in a hockey player's routine. This morning, the transportation logistics alone would have been extra challenging, especially for the Kings' players, who probably made their own way to the arena rather than arriving on a bus as a group, like the Coyotes.

This might be a real explanation for the Kings' sluggish play. After turning out so many consistently strong performances game after game in these playoffs, fans were not treated to the exciting style of hockey they've come to expect. They did still fire 36 shots on Mike Smith, but many of those chances came from the perimeter and they had a hard time getting past the Coyotes' defense to make life difficult for Smith. Dustin Brown in particular was uncharacteristically quiet, with just two shots, two hits and one block to show for his day's work.

The Kings also made two mistakes that cost them dearly.

On Phoenix's first goal, Ray Whitney was able to intercept a clearing attempt by Jonathan Quick from behind the Kings' net and then fired it out to an opportunistic Shane Doan, who made no mistake. That goal came on the power play at 14:19 of the first period, and it marked the first time the Coyotes were able to sustain a lead for more than two minutes in the series.

Doan managed to double the lead at 11:10 of the second, on a goal that almost no one initially saw. A defensive-zone giveaway by Drew Doughty had led to a scoring chance by Phoenix and then an offensive-zone faceoff.

Antoine Vermette has been lights-out on draws throughout this series. He won the faceoff cleanly back to Doan, who fired a wrister that deflected over Quick's glove hand, hit the camera in the net and bounced back out.

Play continued down the ice before a video review confirmed the puck had gone into the net and Doan had logged his second career two-goal playoff game.

The Kings continued to fire shots at Smith in the third, and Phoenix gave up a total of eight power plays throughout the game. But the Coyotes' penalty kill remained perfect, and the Desert Dogs handed the Kings their first shutout loss of the 2012 playoffs.

Jobing.com Arena in Glendale should be jumping for Game 5, which will take place Tuesday at 6 p.m. PT.

The Kings were able to bounce back from their Game 4 loss against Vancouver in Round 1 with an OT win on the road to seal the series. Will they be able to repeat their history?

 

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @pool88.

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