The champagne and confetti were shelved at the Staples Center on Sunday when the LA Kings had their long awaited trip to the Stanley Cup Finals stalled after a 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Kings have so far made only one appearance in the Stanley Cup Championship Series since their debut in 1967. In 1993, Los Angeles, coached by Barry Melrose and led by legendary player Wayne Gretzky, entered the final quest for the Cup against the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings won the first of five games but went on to lose the next four, conceding the Cup to Montreal. They have never won a Stanley Cup in their 41 year history.
Doan had two goals, Mike Smith made 36 saves in his third playoff shutout, and the Coyotes emphatically avoided playoff elimination with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.
Ray Whitney and Antoine Vermette had assists for the Coyotes, who escaped a series sweep by snapping the eighth-seeded Kings’ eight-game winning streak in front of long-suffering fans denied the chance to celebrate Los Angeles’ first berth in the Stanley Cup finals since 1993.
Phoenix was better from the opening faceoff, dominating an opponent that had been on an 11-1 run through the postseason. Doan scored on a power play in the first period and on a deflected shot in the second, silencing the crowd at the Kings’ first loss since April 18.
Los Angeles, which had a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, began the second period undaunted by its one-goal deficit. Lewis had the first big chance, skating to the front of the net, where his backhand beat Smith but went off the post. Shortly thereafter, Drew Doughty ripped a shot from the point that Smith saved, and then barely got his glove to the rebound before Anze Kopitar could punch in an equalizer.
The third period was more of the same for the Kings, who pulled goaltender Jonathan Quick for an extra attacker in the final minutes but could produce no magic. Quick finished with 19 saves.
Entering the post-season as an eighth seed, the Kings beat the top seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs then the second seeded St Louis Blues in the second then won the first three against the Coyotes. The Kings are 2-for-23 on the power play in the series after Sunday’s 0-for-6 performance.
The Kings are surely the class of the West and the biggest surprise of the playoffs. But let’s not crown them just yet. Assuming they get past Phoenix, they still have to face either New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils – both tough, disciplined and well-coached squads with outstanding goaltending. The over-achieving Kings will meet their match.
Game 5 is is on right now in Phoenix. Los Angeles is 7-0 on the road in the playoffs.