The Los Angeles Kings going back to the Stanley Cup finals for first time since Wayne Gretzky's team in 1993 after beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 to win series 4-1
The LA Kings are going back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 19 years, after beating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night. The winning goal came from Dustin "Pancakes" Penner, deep into a chippy extra frame of the best game this Western conference final had to offer.
Now, the Kings will move on to face either the New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils in the finals. The last time LA made it this far was in 1993, when the Wayne Gretzky-led Kings lost to the Montreal Canadiens.
Both teams set a furious pace in the first 40 minutes, matching goals during a crazy 10-minute span in the second period -- one from the Kings finding its way in as they were short-handed. The Coyotes looked much the same as in Game 4, managing to be tighter defensively, and executing the forecheck better than they had in the first three games. But the Kings were back to normal form, too, tightening up their passes and offense since Sunday.
In the end, the night came down to power plays -- the ones that were and the ones that could have been.
Tied 3-3 already in the third, both teams started to get cautious -- and, in some cases, careless. The Coyotes were gifted a chance midway through the period to go ahead when the Kings gave up a 5-on-3 powerplay, thanks to a delay-of-game call. But the 'Yotes only managed to make use of it for a short time, until they, too, gave up a penalty. Luckily for the them, the Kings powerplay was nowhere near as good as their penalty kill. And as Coyote Derek Morris lobbed a loose puck over the glass for yet another delay-of-game penalty in the dying moments of the third period, Arizona fans held out hope that the trend would continue. No doubt, like Tortorella, they could do nothing but pray -- only this time, for no goals. Someone was apparently listening. Up the extra man as the first overtime period started, once again, the Kings couldn't make anything happen.
In keeping with the night's theme, overtime will be remembered for more than just Penner's winning goal.
Kings faithful were biting nails to a fine dust when LA defenceman Drew Doughty was called for interference midway through the extra frame. Incensed, Doughty ranted at the referee, tempting an added reprimand. A few minutes later, after LA had (you guessed it) killed off the ineffective Phoenix powerplay, the refs called Doughty on an offside that wasn't. Again, Doughty lost control, arguing there puck was still in play. Only this time, he was right. But he wasn't the only one to let his emotions get the better of him.
Fans in Arizona will probably be equally up in arms at the officials over what appeared to be a late hit from Kings' captain Dustin Brown late in the extra period. As the Coyotes traveled into the offensive zone offside, the play was whistled dead. A split second later, Brown collided with Michael Roszival, mid-ice, in what looked to be a knee-on-knee hit. Here it is.
There was no penalty called on the play, and Coyotes captain Shane Doan took his turn berating the referees. Only moments later, when play resumed, Penner scored, chipping in a rebound past Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith to win the game.
While the Kings took to the ice to celebrate, fans threw debris and garbage at them from the stands.
As for the Brown hit, some pundits agreed that no call was the right one. TSN's Bob Mckenzie tweeted after the game that, "Based on NHL history, I don't believe league will view it as a knee-on-knee hit as much as a bodycheck with incidental leg on leg contact." Brown, McKenzie continued, "went into the hit with wide stance but his track never deviated from straight line and upper body contact was made. Not a classic knee." Puck Daddy writer, Greg Wyshynski seemed to be of a similar mind, writing only moments after the hit occurred, "Brown hit him high, but on the shoulder. And he didn't lead with his knee."
Brown refused to touch the Clarence Campbell trophy, awarded to the conference winning team every year, when it was awarded to the Kings immediately after the game. The move is in keeping with normal practice for many teams who believe it's bad luck to do so (the real trophy is Lord Stanley's, after all). Interestingly, the '93 Kings ignored that tradition, and their subsequent loss has fueled the superstition further. As it happens, that might not be the only supernatural impediment to the Kings' progression. Over at Grantland, Katie Baker highlighted the Marty McSorley curse, wherein an illegal stick curvature (and perhaps some effective back-room investigative research from the Habs) worked into the Canadiens' eventual victory. And that illegal stick? Probably created bad karma for all the Kings teams that would follow.