“Coyote Ugly” Comes Through
Its a saying that has been uttered by the Phoenix Coyotes players throughout the playoffs, and Sunday afternoon was the first time that Kings fans witnessed what “Coyote Ugly” really means. It was a grind it out type of game, where the roles seemed to be reversed from the last 3 games of this series. The Coyotes looked like the team that has the excellent fore-check and great tape to tape passes. Some could point out the start time(noon pacific) or all the events around Staples Center this weekend as a sort of distraction, but it was clear from the beginning of Game 4 that the Coyotes were a different team. Martin Hanzal made his return from his one game suspension and Adrian Aucoin played his first game for Phoenix since being injured earlier in the playoffs, although neither one had a clear impact on the game like Coyotes captain Shane Doan and goaltender Mike Smith. Doan seemed more focused on playing hockey instead of stirring it up with the Kings, which led to his 2 goals in the game. Smith was on fire all afternoon, posting a shutout on the road while facing elimination. It was the first time Mike Smith looked like Mike Smith. The Coyotes were out shot once again, but found a way to win a game in Los Angeles and force a Game 5 at home.
Shane Doan started off the scoring in the first period, by stealing the puck in the right corner, circling towards the net, and shooting on the backhand through the arm of Jonathan Quick, who got a piece of the shot, but just not quite enough. Doan would then add to the scoreboard with his second of the game on a faceoff where, after a draw was won by Antoine Vermette, Doan shot it in to the net. No one knew if it had gone in or not, and play continued. The referees looked at the play and there was no doubt, as the shot had gone off of the camera inside the net. The Coyotes would hold on to their lead for the rest of the game by limiting the Kings time and space in the neutral zone as well as their defensive zone. Mike Smith was unstoppable and the defense hung tight. The Kings now lead the series 3-1 and are still one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals. By losing the game on Sunday, the Kings win streak of 8 games was broken. Game 5 in Phoenix is slated for Tuesday at 6pm on the NBC Sports Network.
3 Stars of Game 4:
1. Mike Smith(PHX): 36 saves, shutout
2. Shane Doan(PHX): 2 goals
3. Antoine Vermette(PHX): 1 assist