King starts strong in Game 1
Dwight King, aw-shucks personality and all, said there was a basic lesson he absorbed during six games with the Kings during the 2010-11 season.
“You can’t wait on the ice,” King said.
King didn’t during a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.
He chased teammate Mike Richards up ice on a two-on-one and chipped in a rebound to break a 1-1 tie in the second period.
With time running out in the game, King beat a Coyotes player to the puck and flung a shot from center ice for an empty-net goal with 48 seconds left.
“That’s a big boost to my confidence,” King said.
That is paying dividends for the Kings, who found King at Lethbridge (Canada) in the Western Hockey League in 2007. Brent McEwen, western scout for the Kings, was the first in the organization to lay eyes on him.
“I asked Brent if there was anybody under the radar and he said, ‘yeah, this guy King,’ ” said Jack Ferreira, special assistant to Kings’ General Manager Dean Lombardi. “We went to see him, and he played five minutes. I said to Brent, ‘He does more in five minutes than some guys do in 20 minutes.’ ”
The Kings drafted King in the fourth round that spring. He had five goals and 14 points in 27 games during the regular season. He has three goals in the playoffs, two Sunday.
King slipped a pass to Richards and said, “I looked around and there was no one else, so I got up to speed to catch him. I kept my stick ready the whole time.”
King pounced on the rebound to give the Kings the lead. He finished the evening harassing Coyotes players in the final minute, and then clinching the victory.
“Last year, he was up for six games and I don’t know if he felt too comfortable,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “You’re always on the buddle, wondering whether you’re going to stay or go. He’s a lot more relaxed. He gets in forecheck and gets a lot of pucks back for us.”
Penalty-killing stays strong
The Kings killed five penalties Sunday, running their streak to 24 in a row without giving up a goal.
“You can pressure all you want; if you’re not smart with it, gaps open up,” Kings’ forward Jarret Stoll said. “A good power play can pick you apart.”
Kopitar said, “I think we’re aggressive all over ice. We get to loose pucks and clear them.”
Both good strategies. Coach Darryl Sutter had a better one.
“Stay out of the penalty box,” Sutter said.
The Kings have won six consecutive games on the road during the playoffs. The NHL record for consecutive playoff road wins in one season is seven, last accomplished by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
The Kings were idle for six days, waiting for the conference finals to begin. They hardly looked rusty, with a 16-4 edge on shots in the first period.
“Everyone was so anxious to get started and everyone burst out all the energy we had saved up,” defenseman Drew Doughty said.
Phoenix’s first appearance in the NHL’s Western Conference finals got off to a slippery start.
The Coyotes’ first penalty was on goaltender Mike Smith, who was run by the Kings’ Justin Williams and responded by tackling Williams after the whistle.
Their first shot on goal was from three-quarters of the ice away seven minutes into the game, on an errant pass by Keith Yandle. Their first goal came when DerekMorris fired a shot from the red line.
“As expected, it is not going to come easy,” the Coyotes’ Antoine Vermette said. “It’s just going to be a huge battle.”