Glendale, AZ – Jonathan Quick might like to give back the goal he allowed from center ice, but the Los Angeles Kings will keep the win.
Dustin Brown scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Quick had 25 saves Sunday night, leading the Kings to a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Quick, the Vezina Trophy finalist, let Derek Morris' center-ice slap shot from the right boards flutter in to tie the game in the first period.
"He just put his head down and went right back to work," said Brown.
The Coyotes came back from a one-goal deficit twice, but Brown scored 2:11 into the third and Dwight King got his second goal of the game into an empty net to seal the win.
Anze Kopitar also scored for the eighth-seeded Kings, who made the conference finals for the first time since Wayne Gretzky led them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.
Indeed, it's a series no one could have predicted between two heated division rivals who caught lightning in a bottle behind good goaltending.
The third-seeded Coyotes, riding Mike Smith as much as the Kings have relied on Quick, are in the conference finals for the first time ever.
Smith faced 47 shots, letting in three, and Mikkel Boedker also scored in the loss.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said his team struggled with execution. Twenty-five to 30 of the shots Smith faced came after the Coyotes had the puck on their sticks, the coach said.
"I thought their whole team was better than our team. We weren't close in that game. We got beat in every facet," said Tippett. "Hopefully we can take some lessons and be better."
Game 2 is Tuesday in Glendale.
Kopitar's goal came on a backhand in the slot while Smith was screened by his own defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead 3:53 into the first period.
Quick had no one but himself to blame for the game's second goal.
Replays showed Morris' shot hovered about a foot off the ground all the way to the net, beating Quick to the far side with 6:34 left in the first to tie the score.
"I don't think it rattled him at all," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter. "It's a rare bad goal against him and our team was resilient enough to battle through it."
King gave LA the lead back at the end of a 2-on-1 with Mike Richards eight minutes into the second period. Richards' shot from the right circle was turned away by Smith, but King was there for a backhand rebound.
Antoine Vermette didn't get an assist on Boedker's goal with 1:55 left in the second to tie the game again, but his hustle move to break up a play behind the LA net was its impetus.
Shane Doan ended up with the puck to Quick's left and sent a pass in front for Boedker, who snapped it in.
Brown's go-ahead goal came on the heels of a seam-splitting pass by defenseman Slava Voynov that found his teammate at center ice. Brown hustled on goal from the right and snapped a shot past Smith to make it 3-2.
The teams are playing each other for the first time in the postseason...Though the Kings are the No. 8 seed, they only finished two points behind the Coyotes for first place in the Pacific Division. They beat Vancouver in five games in the first round then swept St. Louis in four...Phoenix beat Chicago in six games and Nashville in five...The Kings were 0-for-4 on the power play and the Coyotes went 0-for-5.