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Coyotes' top line struggles in loss to Kings

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. – While the Los Angeles Kings' top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams continued to generate quality chances Sunday night in the opening game of the Western Conference Final, the Phoenix Coyotes' top threesome was conspicuous by its absence.

Martin Hanzal
Martin Hanzal
Center - PHX
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 14 | +/-: 2
Brown had a goal and an assist in the 4-2 win against the Coyotes in Game 1, setting up Kopitar for the first goal of the game and putting the Kings ahead for good with his seventh goal of the postseason 2:11 into the third period. Brown now has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the his last five playoff games, and Kopitar has seven points during a four-game point streak.

Meanwhile, Phoenix's top line of Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata – which had combined for seven goals and 15 playoff points – was nearly invisible in Game 1 – unless you count the mistakes.

Whitney had one shot and two giveaways in 19 minutes. Vrbata, who had a team-high 35 goals during the regular season had two shots. And Hanzal lost eight of 13 faceoffs and took the latest in a series of undisciplined postseason penalties at the tail end of a Phoenix power play in the third period.

Truth be told, it didn't resemble the line that was responsible for 173 points during the regular season.

"It's one of those ones where you got to be aware," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Hanzal gets cross checked just before that, and then he gets up and slashes. You have to be able to grit your teeth and take that. The retaliation is going to get called more times than not.


Kings take Game 1 with 4-2 victory

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer
Dustin Brown scored the eventual game-winner early in the third period and Dwight King chipped in with a pair of tallies, as Los Angeles beat the Coyotes 4-2 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. READ MORE ›

"That's the way the referees use to keep control the game. If you're not willing to take those whacks and take a number, then you're going to be in the penalty box and ultimately hurt our team."

Phoenix had its chances on the man advantage, but produced just four shots in over seven minutes of power-play time. The Coyotes have now come up empty on 15 straight power play on the postseason and are facing a Los Angeles penalty kill that has now stopped the opposition 24 straight times in the playoffs.

"They are a good team, but we have to be better, get more traffic on their goalie and play to a standard that we capable of reaching and we weren't there tonight," said Phoenix winger Mikkel Boedker, whose fourth playoff goal of the postseason pulled Phoenix even at 2-2 late in the second period. "The shot totals have to be more even and the game has to be more even."

The Hanzal line was one of several that took their crack at slowing down the Kopitar line, which dominated the first 10 minutes of the game and came on strong again in the third period. Los Angeles' size advantage was a topic prior the series, and the Coyotes had trouble dealing with it on Sunday.

"They were effective. They are big guys who can score," Phoenix center Antoine Vermette said. "They were using their size to generate their scoring chances. We will have to be better against them."

Brown, Kopitar and Williams combined for 15 of the Kings’ 48 shots on goal and attempted 24 shots in all. But Tippett didn't see that as the difference in the game. He was more concerned with how his players – from the top line on down – didn't show up.

"I didn't see it as just the Kopitar line. I thought their whole team was better than our team," Tippett said. "If you like Kopitar's game, he was (like) a lot of them. We weren't close in that game. We got beat in every facet of the game. Hopefully we take some lessons from it."

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