GLENDALE – The Coyotes were outshot and out-chanced badly by the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday. Nothing new there – Phoenix was outshot in nine of its first 11 games in this postseason – winning seven of them on the way to eliminating Chicago and Nashville.
The Coyotes leaned on goalie Mike Smith to make big saves and keep them afloat. Again, par for the course.
But there was a new twist to Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings – the Coyotes were outhustled as well. They lost 1-on-1 battles all over the ice and never found a consistent effort against a team that has dominated all its postseason opponents and is now a perfect 6-0 on the road in the playoffs.
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Phoenix was outshot 17-4 in the first period and needed a goal from center ice by Derek Morris to reach the intermission even. The Coyotes gave up 17 more shots in the second and needed some spectacular saves from Smith and a great individual effort from Antoine Vermette to set up Mikkel Boedker to tie it 2-2.
But the Kings just kept coming in the third period and the Coyotes had no answer. Hoping that a week of rest might cool down the NHL's hottest team, Phoenix had all kinds of trouble keeping pace and didn't match the effort from the opening faceoff.
"They came out flying in the first period and we were frozen we couldn't get out of our own end," Phoenix winger Lauri Korpikoski said. "We have to be more physical and aggressive on their defense and put more pressure on them. It's all well to hang in there, but you can't win a lot of games by just hanging in there. We only had three or four shifts in the whole game like we want. We let them off too easily.
"We have to come flying in the first and finish our checks and play hard. Not so much tactical stuff, just get in there and have fun and work hard. That's how we win games."
The Kings attempted 90 shots in the game. Smith stopped 44 of the 47 he saw, the Coyotes blocked 25 more and 17 others missed the net. Shot No. 90 was Dwight King's second of the night into an empty net that sealed it in the final minute.
"We got beat in every facet of the game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "As the playoffs go on, the bar gets higher and higher. You have some players that can rise with the bar and we didn't have enough guys rise with the bar tonight. We had some games like this (earlier in the playoffs), but not to the point where we got out-competed as bad as we did."
Before the Coyotes got their first shot – nearly seven minutes into the game – Anze Kopitar had already given the Kings a 1-0 lead and his friends were buzzing the Phoenix net regularly. Morris' bomb from the red line that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick's gaffe evened the game on the scoreboard, but the Coyotes never got the game even on any other level.
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"We've got to get more traffic and shots on Quick," said Boedker, whose goal at 18:05 of the second period got Phoenix even for the final time at 2-2. He can't have a night like that every night."
Phoenix finished with 27 shots, but it attempted only 46 in 60 minutes. The Coyotes lost 40 of 70 faceoffs and had eight giveaways – two of which were turned into Kings' goals.
"They played better than us in all kinds of areas," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "Give them credit -- they came hard and forced the game. But it's disappointing when you don't play as well as you can. We've got to be lot better than that. This is the conference [finals]. We didn't play well enough for a regular season game."
Suddenly, the Coyotes are behind in a series for the first time in the postseason. They have two days to regroup before they get another shot at Quick and the Kings in Game 2.
"You don't get anything for winning one," Doan said. "Once the game is done, you get ready for the next one and find a way to win it. It's a disappointing start, but we'll be better."