Published May 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES – Cancel the coronation, or at least postpone it. The Phoenix Coyotes are still hanging around.
Shane Doan scored 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.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix. Los Angeles is 7-0 on the road in the playoffs.
Jonathan Quick stopped 19 shots with little help from his Los Angeles teammates, who were shut out for the first time in the postseason while hitting a bump in what had been one of the most impressive playoff runs in NHL history.
The Kings have reached the Cup final just once in 44 seasons of existence, but their worst game of the postseason prevented them from claiming just the second conference title in franchise history — and becoming just the second No. 8 seed to win three playoff rounds.
The resilient Coyotes are no strangers to adversity after making the playoffs in three straight seasons without an owner or impressive fan support. Asked by Doan and coach Dave Tippett to show their pride in Game 4, the Coyotes showed they're not done with the longest playoff run in franchise history.
Smith, who has all three of his shutouts on the road, made several impressive saves while outplaying Quick for the first time in the series. Phoenix still must win three more games to become just the fourth team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 series deficit, but the Coyotes finally regained the form they showed in knocking off Chicago and Nashville in the first two rounds.
With NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the house to present the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the Western Conference champion, the scene was set for a Kings crowning at Staples Center — but only the Coyotes played with a passion befitting the situation.
And Doan, the Coyotes' captain since 2003 and the sole remaining member of the Winnipeg Jets team that moved to the desert in 1996, provided all the offense necessary.
With its fans standing and cheering from pregame warmup onward, Los Angeles showed only flashes of its usual aggressive forechecking and speed in Game 4. Phoenix managed just two shots in the first 14 minutes, but Doan still put the Coyotes ahead late in the period, skating out from behind the net and flicking a backhand past Quick.
Doan's first goal in five games snapped Phoenix's 0-for-22 power play drought and ended the Kings' streak of 30 straight penalties killed, dating to Game 5 of the first round against Vancouver on April 22. Los Angeles also fell behind in a game for just the second time since the second-round opener against St. Louis.
After Tippett complained about the officiating in Game 3, inferring the Kings are rewarded for embellishment and lamenting his own team's excessive punishment, officials whistled six minors in the first period. That included an unusual goalie-interference penalty against Justin Williams leading to Doan's first goal.
Doan scored again midway through the second period with a deflected shot after Vermette won a faceoff. Doan's shot ricocheted off the camera inside the net, and play briefly continued while the Coyotes raised their arms.
The Kings were awful in the second period, with a failing forecheck and poor passing. Smith nearly gifted a goal to the Kings with a turnover behind his net, but the 40-year-old Whitney dived to deflect Dustin Brown's shot on an open net.
Los Angeles finally played with passion in the third period, pressing the attack and crowding Smith, but got none of the fortunate bounces that have repeatedly led to postseason goals.
Although a confluence of big sporting events in downtown Los Angeles threatened to affect the day for Kings fans, they weren't deterred by the traffic nightmares threatened by the Tour of California cycling race outside and a Clippers evening playoff game.
Kings fans began arriving shortly after dawn, with thousands of black-jerseyed faithful seemingly outnumbering cycling fans as they formed lines outside pubs and thronged the streets outside Staples. Most of the seats were already filled by the warm-up, which began at almost the exact moment Peter Sagan won the Tour's final stage on the street outside.
The NBA worried a multiple-overtime playoff game might force a delay of the Clippers' Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs, or even force a postponement to Monday.
The Coyotes avoided all overtimes — and all celebrations.
NOTES: Martin Hanzal returned to the Coyotes' lineup after sitting out Game 3 under suspension for boarding Brown. Veteran D Adrian Aucoin also returned for Phoenix after missing the series' first three games with an injury. ... Several Kings greats watched the game together in a luxury suite, including Rogie Vachon, Butch Goring, Glen Murray and Ian Turnbull. ... Rainn Wilson, Matthew Perry and David Beckham attended the game.