Photo: The Arizona Republic
GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Phoenix Coyotes looked rusty. The Los Angeles Kings looked well-rested.
LA dominated Game 1 Sunday night at Jobing.com Arena, picking up a 4-2 win and taking a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Final.
"I thought their whole team was better than our team," said Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. "We weren't close in that game. We got beat in every facet of the game."
The final score was much closer than the game played out. The Kings outshot the Coyotes 48-27 and outworked Phoenix throughout the entire game.
"I felt our execution was so poor," said Tippett.
One of the big issues for the Coyotes was turnovers. Phoenix had issues all night clearing its zone, an issue that was not present in the series against Nashville. Not all turnovers led to scoring chances, but Los Angeles did a great job of keeping play in the Coyotes zone for much of the night.
The Kings struck first just under four minutes into the game. Anze Kopitar got free in the slot and lifted a top-shelf backhand shot over Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
But the Coyotes would respond later in the period. Derek Morris slapped a puck from center ice, and the shot somehow found its way past a stunned Jonathan Quick. Still, after getting outshot 17-4 in the 1st period, the Coyotes had tied the game at 1.
Los Angeles would take the lead once again eight minutes into the 2nd period. The Kings had a 2 on 1 in which Mike Richards' shot deflected off Smith and right to LA's Dwight King, who buried home the rebound into an open net.
But once again, the Coyotes would respond with the equalizer. Antoine Vermette put a vicious hit on the Kings Drew Doughty. The puck came free to Shane Doan behind the net. He fed it to Mikkel Boedker going to the cage, and he buried it to tie the game at 2.
Sunday night, though, was the Kings night. LA took advantage of a rare sloppy night for the Coyotes defense. LA's captain netted the game-winner early in the 3rd period as Dustin Brown got past the Coyotes defense and wristed the puck past Mike Smith after a great pass from defenseman Slava Voynov.
Phoenix did mount an offensive assault in the final minutes. With Smith on the bench, Boedker had the puck on his stick in the high slot, but elected to pass instead of shoot. That decision proved costly as the Kings took over possession seconds later, and King scored an empty-net goal to salt away the Kings 4-2 victory.
"In tonight's game everyone was flying," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "To get this first one out of the way and have the win is huge."
With the win, the Kings improve to (6-0) on the road this postseason. Phoenix suffers its first home regulation loss of the 2012 playoffs.
"We have to find a way to win the next one," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. "That's what we've been talking about. Once the game is done, we have to get ready for the next one and continue moving forward."
Game 2 is Tuesday night at 6pm. The Kings have stolen the first two road games in each of their previous series and went on to win those series in five and four games, respectively.