By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent
LOS ANGELES – Somewhere in the corridors of Staples Center sat the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.
The statistical probability suggests that the Los Angeles Kings will be holding that trophy eventually. The law of numbers also suggests that the Kings were due to be taken off their bulldozed path through these Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the Kings weren't interested in the law of averages, karma or whatever cosmic forces were in place after they suffered only their second loss of the postseason, a 2-0 shutout by the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.
"As a player, you don’t really think about that," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "You've just got to prepare like you do every other game. Tonight, we couldn't find a way to score a goal. Now it's hit the reset button, refocus."
Brown stopped mid-sentence because, three feet away from him, Anze Kopitar said "refocus" at almost the same time in his media scrum.
At least the Kings were all on the same page, and they concurred that the Coyotes outplayed them to extend this series, which was more lopsided than a deflated beach ball until Sunday. The series shifts back to Jobing.com Arena for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
L.A.'s relentless forecheck was nullified by a Coyotes team that was able to sustain time in the Kings' end, swipe in two goals and sit on the lead for the rest of the game.
"They came in, down 3-0 on the road and played their game to a tee," Brown said. "I think tonight was more about the Phoenix Coyotes' play. They sat back. They're opportunistic, and that's how they've done it all year. We've got to find another gear. They've been a resilient group all year and they've showed it tonight."
It was L.A.'s first loss since Game 4 of the quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks on April 18 – more than a month ago. The Kings appeared flat for most of the second period and finally suffered consequences for their stagnant power play with an 0-for-6 day.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter practically stays up at night worrying about a day game and how his team would react, but his players said they didn't feel flat and Phoenix just appeared to be the team that most observers thought would have showed up say, three games ago.
"I think guys were good," Matt Greene said in a subdued locker room. "But good's not going to get it done around this time of year and we've got to be better than we were tonight. They came out flying, and we weren't matching their speed."
The Coyotes also didn't give the Kings much to work with offensively as L.A. had a lot of one-shot-and-out sequences. The Kings outshot Phoenix, 36-21, but goaltender Mike Smith found his previous form. The Coyotes also got defenseman Adrian Aucoin back in the lineup, and he put his big body on Brown in front of the net while his teammates made other sacrifices.
"There wasn't as many second-chance opportunities for us because they were blocking a lot of shots," Brown said. "[There weren't] lots of guys getting shots through and getting around the net. They played their game and had some big saves."
L.A.'s power play has been an issue for most of the playoffs. Sutter hasn't had much concern for it, but it's hard to ignore the Kings are in a 2-for-57 rut. Those two came during 5-on-3 play in Game 2.
"If you just look at zone time, we probably have it in there most of the time, right?" Sutter said. "You start each series on its own …. Tonight the power play, we had looks up top, we took too much time. We basically never really looked at it, but I'm going to bet that [Boyd] Gordon, [Antoine] Vermette and probably [Taylor] Pyatt blocked more shots, pucks just hitting them in the pads.
"Quite honestly, that's poor shooting on our part from up top -- from guys that are supposed to take that shot."
The Kings could have highlighted an unprecedented weekend in Los Angeles with the Lakers, Clippers and an international bike race all converging at Staples Center. L.A. actually had chances to make a city celebrate in mass.
Trevor Lewis hit the far post on a backhand, and Brown had his shot deflected after Kopitar stole the puck from Smith.
The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl will have to wait.
"Even if we would have pulled this off, I don't think we really deserved it," Greene said.