After rolling through the first two series, the ‘Yotes dream season came to an abrupt end when Dustin Penner slipped the puck past Mike Smith in overtime giving the Los Angeles Kings a 4-3 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday night at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
The Kings win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils Eastern Conference Finals for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Coyotes had arguably their best start of the playoffs in the opening period, controlling the pace and forcing the tempo in the LA zone before breaking through when Taylor Pyatt netted his fourth of the post season beating Jonathan Quick to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata assisted. For Vrbata, the ‘Yotes leading goal-scorer during the regular season, it was his first point in the last eight games.
However, the lead was short-lived as Anze Kopitar re-directed a blast from Drew Doughty beating Mike Smith short-handed to tie the game. It was Kopitar’s sixth of the playoffs.
The second period saw a myriad of scoring by both teams. Coyotes center Marc-Antoine Pouliot’s put-back gave the Coyotes lead, but it was short-lived when Drew Doughty evened it at two at the 11:13 mark.
Mike Richards’ fourth of the playoffs just over two minutes later gave LA their first lead of the game. Phoenix answered moments later when defensemen Keith Yandle darted in front of the net past a defenseless Quick to make it 3-3. On the play, Yandle tied the franchise record for a single post-season (1-8-9).
The game remained tied through a scoreless third as both teams had solid scoring chances but couldn’t capitalize. Smith was brilliant again turning away shot after shot before the horn sounded at the end of regulation.
The extra session was chippy with both teams fighting valiantly for any edge. With just over three minutes to play, Penner snagged the bouncing puck and beat Smith between the pads for the series-clinching goal.
The play happened moments after left-winger Dustin Brown collided with Michal Rozsival near center ice. The hit, which was re-played several times at the arena, drew the ire of Shane Doan and several teammates who had been critical of the officiating throughout the series. Rozsival was helped off the ice, appearing to put no weight on the injured knee.
“Uncle,” a peeved Doan said after the game regarding the calls. “Are you freaking kidding me? I can’t understand how you miss [these calls]. I don’t want to take anything away from LA. They beat us. But [Rozsival’s] knee is blown out. How do you miss that? I’m sure [the NHL] will have a great explanation for it. They always do. It is what it is.”
Tippett chose to take the high road after the Coyotes Cinderella season finally came to an end.
“You should just write what you saw,” Tippett told the media when asked about the questionable calls. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…it is what it is.”
Through it all, he knows this was a special season with a special collection of players.
“I’m proud of my players and how hard they worked to get here,” the coach said. “It’s too bad it ended so suddenly. This is an incredible group.”