For Kings, it’s win or go to Phoenix
The Kings now have two templates they can follow: the easy way and the hard way.
In the first round of these playoffs, against Vancouver, the Kings won the first three games, then lost Game 4 and had to fly to Vancouver for a fifth game, which they won to close out the series.
In the second round, against St. Louis, the Kings won the first three games then completed the sweep at home. The Kings now find themselves in the same situation in the Western Conference Finals, up three games to none against Phoenix after their 2-1 victory in Game 3 on Thursday at Staples Center.
Game 4 will be played Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, and the Kings have a chance to close out the series, avoid a return trip to Phoenix and get some rest. It won’t be easy, of course.
“We’ve got to win the game,” coach Darryl Sutter said after Game 3. “We’ve still got to win a game, and it might take us another three, five, seven, nine days. So, I don’t think we’re looking too much farther ahead than tomorrow morning in practice.”
The Kings probably would prefer to play again as soon as possible, but they will get two full days off between games, largely because two NBA teams are still playing at Staples Center. That said, the Kings talked after Game 3 about the importance of maintaining focus.
“It’s the same feelings as after the first game,” goalie Jonathan Quick said. “You don’t get anything for three wins. We’re going to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for Game 4.”
These Kings make no power plays
–The Kings continue to succeed in the playoffs without much of a power play. The Kings went 0-for-5 in Game 3 and have now failed to score a power-play goal in eight of their 12 games in this postseason. Among the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs this season, the Kings rank 14th in power-play percentage, behind two teams (Boston and Chicago) that were eliminated in the first round. This is mitigated by the fact that the Kings’ penalty kill has been stellar. The Kings killed Phoenix’s only power play in Game 3, and the Kings have allowed only three power-play goals in these playoffs.
–The Kings once again are up 3-0 in a series, as they were in the first round against Vancouver and the second round against St. Louis. They are the third team in NHL history to take a 3-0 lead in each of their first three series. The Detroit Red Wings did it in 1995 and the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2008. The Kings did something those two teams did not, which was to play the first two games of all three series on the road. The Kings are the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think we probably didn’t play our best hockey in the first, and we found a way to get it to 1-1 into the third. At that point, we come in here and you’ve got 20 minutes to really put a stranglehold on the series. Again, that comes down to individuals getting themselves ready to go.” — Kings captain Dustin Brown.
–LW Dwight King continued his amazing run in the Western Conference Finals. King, a rookie who was in the American Hockey League until mid-February, scored a goal in Game 3. He now has four goals in the Western Conference Finals and five goals in 12 games this postseason. “Obviously, the goals are coming pretty rapidly,” King said. “I’ll take it. If you get opportunities, you have to bury them, and it’s great to see our team doing well too.”
–C Anze Kopitar scored the tying goal in the second period and has recorded at least one point in six consecutive games, with four goals and 10 assists in that span. Kopitar and linemates LW Dustin Brown and RW Justin Williams were dominant in the Game 1 victory at Phoenix, but in Game 2 the Coyotes kept Kopitar’s line under control. After an uneven start in Game 3, the line broke through when Kopitar scored on a breakaway and beat Phoenix G Mike Smith with a close-range backhand shot.
–RW Trevor Lewis had one assist and continued what has been an underrated playoff run. Lewis has an assist in four consecutive games, and he played right wing on the Kings’ most effective line Thursday, with King and C Jarret Stoll. Lewis, a former first-round pick of the Kings, has embraced a checking-line role and is one of the Kings’ top penalty-killers. “I think he’s been important for us in this series,” Kings captain Brown said. “He does all the dirty work and makes a lot of plays for those two guys.”
–C Colin Fraser missed a second consecutive game in order to tend to a family matter in his native Alberta, Canada. Fraser was given permission by coach Darryl Sutter to leave the team on Tuesday afternoon. He was scheduled to return to Los Angeles sometime Thursday. Presumably, Fraser would be able to play in Game 4 on Sunday. Throughout the season, Fraser has been a reliable fourth-line center and has even contributed on special teams.