LOS ANGELES -- Scoring one goal against the Los Angeles Kings has been tough enough in the postseason; getting two straight has been next to impossible.
The Kings have answered nearly every goal by the opposition with one of their own, and usually very quickly. They managed that again Thursday night in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes, tying the score just 2 minutes, 7 seconds after the Coyotes had taken their first lead of the series.
It turned out to be a key moment, as rookie right wing Dwight King later potted the game winner in the 2-1 victory at Staples Center, lifting the Kings to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with their 11th win in 12 playoff games.
“When we let it up, we’ve had a knack just to line up at center ice and get ready to go again,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “We’ve found ways to grind goals and those are huge momentum swings for us.”
The Coyotes had to feel good after Daymond Langkow found a seam in the normally tight L.A. defense and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot 1:03 into the second period, giving Phoenix a 1-0 lead. It was only the fourth time in 12 playoff games the Kings allowed the first goal.
But, once again, the Kings had a speedy answer. Justin Williams won a battle along the boards in his defensive zone, got the puck ahead to Anze Kopitar, who slid it to Brown in the middle of the ice. Kopitar raced ahead and Brown passed to him in stride. Kopitar did the rest, faking a forehand and then dragging the puck to his backhand, where he slid it through the legs of goalie Mike Smith to tie the score, 1-1.
“You’ve got to respond back, especially when you give up [a goal] that was a little uncharacteristic,” said defenseman Matt Greene. “It’s good to have a good rebound and see Kopi put a finish on a chance there. We didn’t have a lot of chances up to that point, so for him to get that was huge.”
In Game 2 of the Vancouver series, the Canucks scored 17 seconds into the second period to tie the score, 1-1. Brown answered five minutes later and the Kings went on to win, 4-2, and take the series in five games.
In Game 1 of the St. Louis series, the Blues took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, but Kings defenseman Slava Voynov tied the score 7 ½ minutes later and the Blues never led again in the four-game sweep.
After giving up four unanswered goals in the first period of Game 2 against St. Louis, the Blues scored 18 seconds into the second period to get their crowd into the game. That didn’t last long, as Williams scored 68 seconds later to push the lead back to four. In Game 3, the Blues scored 1:18 into the second period to tie the score, but King scored 40 seconds later to retake the lead for good. Even after St. Louis scored five minutes into the third period to cut the deficit back to one, Drew Doughty answered 3 ½ minutes later.
Same response in Game 4 after the Blues tied the score midway through the first period. Brown scored before the period ended to push the Kings back into the lead for good.
Even in the first game of the Phoenix series, the Coyotes scored with 1:55 left in the second period to tie the score, 2-2, but Brown scored 2:11 into the third for what turned out to be his third game winner of the postseason.
“It’s obviously great to limit their momentum,” King said. “When the opportunities come, it’s great to see the guys capitalizing on them.”
The Kings have allowed two straight goals just once in these playoffs, a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the opening-round series, their only defeat of these playoffs.
Jarret Stoll says the team refuses to get flustered after allowing a goal, and much of that credit goes to the man behind the bench, coach Darryl Sutter.
“He doesn’t get negative on the bench,” Stoll said. “You just keep throwing guys over the boards and trying to regain that momentum, regain that confidence, and it just seems like we’ve been finding those goals soon after.”