Two desperate teams took the ice in Glendale, Arizona tonight. The Kings vying for a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals - their first since 1993 - and the Coyotes fighting to extend the series to game six.
After nearly 78 minutes of fast, physical hockey the Kings escaped on top with a 4-3 victory.
Dustin Penner clinched the series for the Kings when he scored at the 17:42 mark in overtime breaking a 3-3 tie. The Kings celebrated their campaign through the western conference with confetti disguised as wrappers and cups from furious Phoenix fans. The only thing that might sideline the Kings' win is debate over Dustin Brown's rattling hit on Michal Rozsival.
Brown flew into the Kings' zone directly towards Rozsival. A moment before Brown's shoulder exploded into the unsuspecting chest of Rozsival the refs blew the whistle signaling offsides. Moving with too much force and limited space the collision was inevitable. Rozsival received not only a punishing blow to his chest but also a simultaneous blast to his left knee from Brown's leg. The Coyote defensmen immediately fell to the ice writhing in pain. Rozsival need assistance off the ice and couldn't put weight on his left leg.
The refs did not call a penalty on Brown; the final draw of the series took place in the neutral zone after the momentary delay. Twenty seconds later Penner and the Kings were celebrating the victory.
"He was trying to get out of the way," Brown said after the game. "I was just finishing my check."
Livid Phoenix players rushed the refs arguing about the non-call while their fans littered the ice with garbage in protest. Coyotes' captain Shane Doan, visibly agitated, confronted Brown as the teams shook hands.
The fifth installment of the series was the most action packed and consisted of familiar tendencies and storylines.
Great Goaltending:Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith were the stars. It's no suprise that a conference final relied heavily on the goalies' shoulders but the two netminders were the keystones to their teams' success. The goalies literally used every inch of their bodies tonight and throughout the series. Quick somehow stoned Radim Vrbata in the opening period sliding across the crease on his side launching his legs upwards just beneath the crossbar making the save with his toes. Not to be outdone, Smith took more shots to his head than the three stooges and will probably spend half the offseason with a throbbing headache. This was only the second game Quick allowed more than two goals this postseason. Smith's shutout in game four was his third of the postseason (tied for the most these playoffs with Henrik Lundqvist).
The Kings' Powerplay Struggles: The Kings' powerplay has been
bad dreadful terrble non-existent. Just look at the numbers: The Kings entered tonight's contest 6/70 on extra-man opportunities this postseason, 2-32 this series, and went 0-4 tonight. Even more off putting is the lack of shots and opportunities they produce and the significance of when they occur. A Phoenix penalty in the final 30 seconds of regulation gave the Kings a golden opportunity to close out the game (and series) in overtime. The Kings' advantage stalled, which is unsettling in overtime when one mistake can end the game.
Penalty-Killing Unit Can Score: Not only have the Kings' been efficient in killing penalties but they've also been able to advance their scoreboard when playing man down. The Kings' have scored five goals this postseaon despite being at a disadvantage. Tonight the Coyotes struck first on a powerplay when Tyler Pyatt deflected a Martin Hanzal shot at the 4:20 mark of the first period. The unit took a mulligan and was able to level the score with a Anze Kopitar tip-in from a Drew Doughty slapshot off a faceoff.
Kings outshoot Coyotes: In a series with two strong goalies the team that gets more shots certainly has an advantage. Tonight L.A. outshot Phoenix 51,41. Take a look at the rest of the games (Kings' shots first): Game 4- 36,21; Game 3- 28,19; Game 2- 40,24; Game 1- 48,27. Overall: 203-132.
Road Success:So much for home-field advantage. The Kings are now 8-0 on the road this postseason and went 3-0 in Arizona. The Kings have the longest winning road playoff streak with 10 consecutive victories dating back to two wins they tallied against the Sharks last postseason.
The Kings tore through the western conference and now await the winner of the New Jersey Devils / New York Rangers. With the eastern conference finals split at 2-2 the Kings will have plenty of time to study film and plan accordingly. The first game of the Stanley Cup Finals is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30th and will take place on the east coast.
Dustin Brown didn't touch the Campbell Bowl tonight because of superstition. Next week their quest for the Cup begins, no matter who they play they'll have their hands full.