By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor / Bracket Challenge Blog
As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings knew they'd have to find ways to win on the road in order to be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Three rounds into the 2012 postseason, they still haven't lost away from Staples Center.
With Sunday's 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Jobing.com Arena, the Kings improved to 6-0 on the road this postseason and 9-1 overall.
Dating back to last year, Los Angeles has won eight straight away from home in the playoffs. No team has accomplished that since the New Jersey Devils from 1995-97.
"Every game is important," Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. "If you look at both us and Phoenix, this postseason, we both won Game 1 in each of the first two rounds. They know how important it is, and so do we. But it means nothing if we don't win Game 2."
The NHL record for consecutive road playoff wins in the same year is seven -- set by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, when they won the Stanley Cup.
This penalty kill is killer -- Their play on the road isn't the only reason why Los Angeles continues to shine.
The Kings killed off five more power plays Sunday night and allowed only four shots on goal along the way. Los Angeles has now denied 24 consecutive man advantages, dating back to its opening-round series victory against the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks. The Kings followed that up by going 24-for-24 on the PK against the No. 2 St. Louis Blues.
"I think there's a lot that goes into the penalty kill -- faceoff, shot blocking, clearing the puck down the ice -- it's a big job against these guys because the way (Keith) Yandle moves back there and (Oliver Ekman) Larsson moves back there, (Ray) Whitney, then they get the net presence, it's tough to handle. Then you got to be careful in your clears, because (Mike) Smith moves it back up against the wall."
It's certainly a good thing the Kings' penalty kill has been exceptional, because their power play has been dreadful. Los Angeles has capitalized on only four of 51 opportunities this postseason. They went 0-for-4 Sunday night.
Not a good sign -- The Coyotes will surely do everything in their power to bounce back in Game 2 on Tuesday night, but losing a series opener hasn't translated into success in years past.
Prior to Sunday's game, the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise has lost a Game 1 on 15 occasions. It has yet to win a series when that happens.
"I'm interested to see how we come back and play better," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We have to play better if we're going to have a chance to win. I recognize that they're a good team, but we're going to have to play better if we'll have a chance to be successful."
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