Kings clinch playoffs by beating Coyotes in SO
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:05 AM
The Los Angeles Kings
' prowess in shootouts has earned them a playoff berth.
The Kings got goals by Michal Handzus and Jarret Stoll
, and Jonathan Quick
stopped two of three Phoenix shots to improve to 10-0 in the tiebreaker as the Kings clinched became the fourth team in the Western Conference to lock up a playoff berth by beating the Coyotes 3-2 at the Staples Center on Wednesday night.
The two points give the Kings 98, one more than Nashville and Phoenix. Dallas, the only non-playoff team that still has a chance to make the top eight in the West, can get only 97. Los Angeles concludes its regular-season schedule with a home-and-home series against the seventh-place Anaheim Ducks. The two Southern California teams have never been to the playoffs in the same year since the Ducks joined the NHL in 1993-94.
"We can take a deep breath and breathe out, but we got two big games ahead of us," coach Terry Murray said. "We've got a couple big games against Anaheim who are playing well. We want to try to keep going to get the home ice advantage."
Stoll, for one, would very much like to start the playoffs at home.
"It's huge and we want it," he said of the home-ice advantage. "Our goal is obviously to make the playoffs. The home ice is there for us and these last two games are a big test for us, and getting our game to where we want it to be for playoffs. If we do that, we'll probably have home ice because of it."
The Coyotes, who could have clinched with a win, need one more point in their two remaining games, a home-and-home series against San Hose, to assure themselves of a second straight trip to the playoffs.
"We did everything we could to win the game," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We made a couple of mistakes on their goals, but in the end we competed hard and tried to find a win. Unfortunately we only got one point. We've got to find our way into the playoffs in the last two games."
Added captain Shane Doan
: "It's a big point, but when you come all the way out here you want to find a way to get both of them … we've got to find ways to win games. We've been close, we've been around it, but we just haven't found ways to win."
Stoll, who scored the game's first goal in regulation, followed Handzus' goal in the first round of the shootout by beating Ilya Bryzgalov with a laser from about 15 feet -- his ninth goal in 10 shootout attempts this season and eighth in a row. Radim Vrbata
beat Quick in the second round, but after L.A.'s Dustin Brown
hit the post, Quick stopped Lauri Korpikoski
to end the game and help the Kings set a franchise record with 46 victories.
"I've been getting a lot of help," Quick said of his shootout success. "We have to be up near the top as far as goals scored in the shootout. That goes a long way, especially when we shoot first."
The Kings qualified despite the absence of their top two scorers, Anze Kopitar
and Justin Williams
. Both were injured in late March.
"We've got a lot of character in the locker room," Quick said. "We noticed that a little earlier in the season, when we went through a couple slumps and found ourselves out of the top eight. We went and won some big games on the road, in some tough arenas, and these guys continued to compete, and it's a pleasure being in net for them."
and Taylor Pyatt
scored first period goals for Phoenix and Bryzgalov made 31 saves.
"It was a tight game -- we kind of expected that," Tippett said. "It comes down to a shootout, and that's the way it goes sometimes."
Pyatt was one of three players who returned to the Coyotes, along with Korpikoski and All-Star defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who played his first game since fracturing the orbital bone in his left eye Feb. 17.
Pyatt put Phoenix ahead 2-1 at 17:58 of the first period, slamming his 18th goal into a wide-open net after Stempniak's wrist shot from a sharp angle to the left of the net hit Quick's left leg and bounced into the slot.
The Kings tied it at 17:03 of the second. Wayne Simmonds carried down the right side and spotted Clifford cruising down the slot a step ahead of defenseman Michal Rozsival
. Clifford redirected Simmonds' pass from the right circle past Bryzgalov's right leg for his seventh goal.
L.A. opened the scoring 12:21 into the game when brown stickhandled past defenseman Rostislav Klesla
before setting up Stoll at the left of the crease for a backhander. Stoll became the sixth King to reach the 20-goal mark this season, the most since 1992-93 -- the only time Los Angeles has made the Stanley Cup Final since entering the NHL in 1967.
The Coyotes tied it just 1:39 later when Pyatt set up Stempniak in the slot for a screened 25-foot slap shot that beat Quick to the glove side. It was Stempniak's 19th goal this season and seventh against Los Angeles.
"It's a win that you want to have and that's a hard game to win," Murray said. "The guys stepped up. It was a fun game to coach tonight."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.