EL SEGUNDO -- On a morning when Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter gave his players the option of practicing on the ice or letting their bodies heal after Game 4’s loss to the Phoenix Coyotes the day before, team captain Dustin Brown was the first player to skate out at Toyota Sports Center.
Brown had one objective in mind: working on tip shots in front of the net.
“I’ve been having a lot of opportunities to tip pucks and I’ve been missing them,” he said. “You only get one or two opportunities in a game to tip a puck.”
Brown doesn’t want to miss out on another opportunity Tuesday. The Kings can accomplish what they failed to do Sunday afternoon at Staples Center and finish off the Coyotes in Game 5 of their Western Conference final in Glendale, Ariz.
A victory would send them to just their second Stanley Cup final in franchise history.
The Kings are fortunate to get this far with a power play that’s 6-for-70 in the postseason, including 0-for-6 in Game 4. Three of their power-play goals have come on 5-on-3s and another in the final seconds of a five-minute penalty.
Brown said getting bodies in front of the net, whether on the power play or not, is the key to beating Phoenix goalie Mike Smith. He stopped 36 shots in Game 4 for his third shutout of the postseason, all on the road.
“We had some traffic, but probably not enough,” Brown said.
The Kings were also guilty, Brown said, of shooting from the perimeter before the forwards could clog the middle, making it easier for Smith to see the puck.
“He’s a big goaltender, so he’s looking over the top,” Brown said. “It’s hard to really take his eyes away, per se, but if he has to look over the top and you get a quick shot, you never know.”
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who tied for the team lead with five shots on goal Sunday, agreed.
“It’s not about the bomb or the one-timer or whatever it may be, it’s just getting the puck to the net, creating a battle, and Brownie can bank in the rebound,” he said.
The Kings have been in this position before. They missed out on a chance to sweep the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round of the playoffs by losing Game 4 at home. They went on the road for Game 5 and clinched the series in overtime, something they’re looking to repeat Tuesday in the desert.
“The last couple games we’ve really slacked off and not played our best hockey as a team,” Doughty said. “Going into the next one, in their barn, we’ve got to be at our best.”
A good place to start would be in front of the Phoenix net.