The Phoenix Coyotes year-long slogan “Hockey the Hard Way” has been put in play again after the ‘Yotes fell to the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale on Sunday night.
The Coyotes were dominated in nearly every facet and now have to hope for a split with Game 2 on Tuesday before the series shifts to LA for games three and four starting on Thursday.
“I thought their whole team was better than our whole team,” Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said after the loss. “We got beat in every facet of that game.”
The energy was electric when the puck dropped, but the Coyotes again started slowly as the Kings peppered goalie Mike Smith early and often before Anze Kopitar’s backhand in front of the net opened the scoring. It was one of several defensive lapses when LA had solid scoring chances only to be turned away by Smith.
The Coyotes, who were outshot 17-4 in the period, tied the game on Derek Morris’ blast from behind the blue line, catching Jonathan Quick napping at 13:26. The goal seemed to re-energize the crowd, but the ‘Yotes failed to capitalize on a late power play and the teams entered the dressing room tied at one after one.
LA again struck first to open the period when Dwight King netted his second goal of the playoffs beating Smith with a rebound outback as LA broke out on a two-on-one break in the Coyotes zone.
Phoenix again responded as Mikkel Boedker took a pass from Shane Doan behind the Los Angeles net and fired it past an out of position Quick to knot it at two. It was one of the few point-blank chances the Coyotes got through the first two periods as they were outshot 34-18.
The Coyotes again found themselves playing from behind as Kings left-winger Dustin Brown stayed red-hot netting his seventh playoff goal just two minutes into the final period to make it 3-2.
After several unsuccessful runs to the Kings net, Tippett pulled Smith in the closing minute, but the extra attacker did little good as King’s second goal of the night, an empty netter, put the game on ice.
“They beat us in all kinds of different areas,” Doan said. “It’s frustrating when you get beat, especially when you don’t play as well as you can.”
The Kings outshot Phoenix 48-27 and controlled the pace at both ends of the ice.
“I felt like our execution was so poor,” a clearly frustrated Tippett said afterwards. “The will to get things done wasn’t there. That has to change if we want to get back in the series.”
They will drop the puck for Game 2 Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.