By HOWARD BERGER
GLENDALE, Ariz. (May 16) – The handiest item for any reporter covering the Stanley Cup Western Conference final this spring is a record-book – essential to keeping abreast of the steamrolling Los Angeles Kings while they plow through the 2012 playoffs.
Decades have passed since a team swallowed the competition in a manner similar to the Kings: now 10-and-1 in the Cup tournament after a 4-0 white-wash of the Phoenix Coyotes here last night. L.A. leads the Conference championship 2-0 and there is no indication, at this point, that the series will return to Jobing.com Arena after the Kings play their two home games – Thursday night and Sunday afternoon.
In a mind-boggling achievement, the Kings have taken the first two games on the road in all three of their playoff rounds this spring – against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix. L.A. has become only the second team in modern Stanley Cup history to begin the playoffs 7-and-0 away from home (Kings also won Game 5 at Vancouver, closing out the series on a goal in overtime by Jarret Stoll) – equaling the mark set by the 1999 Colorado Avalanche. The fact Colorado did not win the NHL championship that year should be a sobering reminder to the Kings that much work lies ahead, but the 2012 Los Angeles juggernaut has hardly broken a sweat to this point – so thoroughly has it overwhelmed the opposition.
The visitors were fueled last night by a three-goal performance from Jeff Carter and goalie Jonathan Quick’s third shut-out this spring. Carter’s hat-trick, by the way, was the first-such accomplishment by an L.A. player in the post-season since Wayne Gretzky finished off the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the 1993 Stanley Cup semifinals in Toronto.
GAME 2 HEROES FOR LOS ANGELES – FORWARD JEFF CARTER AND GOALIE JONATHAN QUICK – EMBRACE AFTER LAST NIGHT’S 4-0 ROMP OVER THE PHOENIX COYOTES HERE IN GLENDALE.
In 1999, Colorado opened the playoffs with consecutive road victories at San Jose en route to a first-round triumph. In the Conference semifinal, the Avs lost at home in the first two games but recovered to take the next two in Detroit and won the series in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena. Colorado then earned consecutive 2-1 decisions at Dallas to begin the Western final only to have the eventual Cup champions rebound for a seven-game victory; the Stars went on to beat Buffalo in the title round.
As far as any observer can tell, there is no Western rival that can slow the phenomenal Kings in these playoffs; barring a complete reversal when the series resumes at Staples Center, it’ll be up to the Eastern survivor – either New York Rangers or New Jersey – to deny Los Angeles its first Stanley Cup. The geographic and division rivalry with Phoenix heated up last night in a brutal affair from which Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal of the Coyotes were banished with major penalties for boarding – Doan’s hit on Trevor Lewis far-more incidental than Hanzal’s foolish and irresponsible crack from behind on a defenseless Dustin Brown. The Kings’ captain was shaken up, though he kept playing – unlikely to matter in what is certain to be a multiple-game sentence for Hanzal.
The mercury soared to 110 Fahrenheit here in the desert yesterday, but the hockey visitors easily cooled off the home team last night. Here is my photo-review of Game 2:
AS STORM-CLOUDS DEVELOPED IN THE SEARING HEAT OVER MOUNTAINS NORTHWEST OF PHOENIX (ABOVE) FANS OF THE COYOTES AND KINGS MADE THEIR WAY INTO JOBING.COM ARENA FOR GAME 2 OF THE WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP.
THE ARENA BEGINS TO FILL (ABOVE) AS THE PLAYOFF RIVALS WARM UP.
THE PARTISAN AUDIENCE GAVE ITS CLUB A ROUSING WELCOME (ABOVE) BEFORE JOINING JONATHAN QUICK (BELOW) ON ITS FEET FOR THE SINGING OF THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER.
REFEREE DAN O’ROURKE GETS SET TO DROP THE PUCK (ABOVE) BETWEEN ANTOINE VERMETTE OF PHOENIX AND MIKE RICHARDS OF L.A.
THOUGH LOS ANGELES DID NOT SCORE ITS CUSTOMARY EARLY GOAL, IT PRESSURED MIKE SMITH (ABOVE), WHILE THE SETTING SUN SHONE ON FANS IN THE UPPER-DECK (BELOW).
QUICK SAW MORE ACTION IN THE FIRST PERIOD (ABOVE AND BELOW) THAN HE DID IN GAME 1, WHEN THE COYOTES WERE OUT-SHOT BY THE KINGS 17-4.
SECOND PILE-UP OF THE NIGHT OCCURRED AFTER DWIGHT KING (74 ABOVE) BARRELED INTO SMITH, WHO LOST HIS HELMET AND MASK (BELOW) IN THE COLLISION.
L.A. WAS IN COMPLETE CONTROL – ON THE ICE AND BEHIND THE BENCH, WHERE DARRYL SUTTER (ABOVE) HAS TRANSFORMED THE CLUB INTO CHAMPIONSHIP THREAT.
THOUGH IT TOOK A BIT LONGER, L.A. SCORED FIRST YET AGAIN AS UNSUNG HERO DWIGHT KING RE-DIRECTED A SHOT FROM INSIDE THE RIGHT POINT BY DREW DOUGHTY AT 13:15 OF THE OPENING PERIOD (ABOVE) AND THEN WATCHED HAPPILY FROM THE VISITORS’ BENCH. WHY, IT WAS ENOUGH TO GIVE POOR MIKE SMITH A HEADACHE (BELOW).
JORDAN NOLAN OF L.A. REACHES FOR PUCK (ABOVE) IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE WHILE DUSTIN BROWN TAKES UP RESIDENCE, AS PER USUAL, IN FRONT OF SMITH (BELOW).
I SNAPPED THE ABOVE IMAGE OF BRAD RICHARDSON BEING THWARTED BY SMITH JUST AS A PHOTOGRAPHER’S STROBE-LIGHT FLASHED IN THE ARENA.
KINGS WERE FULL VALUE FOR THEIR LEAD WHEN THE BUZZER SOUNDED (ABOVE) TO END THE OPENING 20 MINUTES OF PLAY.
FACE-OFF SCRUM ENSUES EARLY IN THE SECOND PERIOD (ABOVE) INVOLVING JARRET STOLL, MARTIN HANZAL, LAURI KORPIKOSKI AND TREVOR LEWIS.
NOT SURE IN THE ABOVE COIF WAS REAL OR FAKE, BUT I WOULDN’T PUT A LOT OF CASH ON DOOR NO. 1.
CARTER SCORED HIS FIRST OF THE NIGHT ON A DEFLECTION OF DUSTIN PENNER’S SHOT (ABOVE) AT 4:47 OF THE MIDDLE FRAME, PROVIDING THE VISITORS A 2-0 LEAD.
THE NIGHT WAS QUICKLY GOING DOWNHILL FOR SMITH (ABOVE) WHILE DREW DOUGHTY AND ANZE KOPITAR (11) CONVERSED (BELOW) DURING A TV BREAK.
KINGS PEST JORDAN NOLAN CAUSED A FRACAS (ABOVE) WHEN HE CRASHED THE PHOENIX NET, BRINGING ALL OTHERS ONTO THE SCENE IN THE SECOND PERIOD.
LINESMAN BRIAN MURPHY DROPS PUCK BETWEEN KOPITAR AND VERMETTE.
COYOTES CAPTAIN SHANE DOAN WENT FOR AN EARLY SHOWER AFTER BEING ASSESSED A BOARDING MAJOR AND GAME MISCONDUCT (ABOVE AND BELOW) FOR A HIT ON TREVOR LEWIS AT 16:29 OF THE SECOND PERIOD. DAYMOND LANGKOW WAS SIMULTANEOUSLY HANDED A SLASHING MINOR, PROVIDING L.A. A LONG 5-on-3 POWERPLAY.
WITH THE TWO-MAN ADVANTAGE, CARTER POSITIONED HIMSELF IN FRONT OF SMITH (ABOVE) AND THEN BURIED HIS SECOND OF THE NIGHT (BELOW) AT 18:49 OF THE MIDDLE FRAME TO GIVE LOS ANGELES A COMMANDING 3-0 LEAD.
KINGS CONTINUED TO WORK WITH A 5-on-3 (ABOVE) AND THOUGH THEY DIDN’T ADD TO THEIR LEAD, THEY WERE IN COMPLETE COMMAND WHEN THE SECOND PERIOD ENDED (BELOW).
DON’T THINK IT WAS SHANE DOAN (ABOVE) BUT I WOULDN’T HAVE BLAMED THE BANISHED COYOTES CAPTAIN FOR CHOOSING THIS PARTICULAR SPOT TO VIEW THE THIRD PERIOD.
CARTER, LOOKING FOR THE HAT-TRICK, FACES OFF (ABOVE) AGAINST BOYD GORDON OF PHOENIX TO BEGIN THE FINAL FRAME – REFEREE CHRIS ROONEY DOING THE HONORS.
KEITH YANDLE OF THE COYOTES PLAYS PUCK ALONG THE SIDE-BOARDS (ABOVE) WHILE MATT GREENE PROVIDES PROTECTION FOR QUICK (BELOW) AFTER A SCORING CHANCE.
THERE WAS NO JOY ON THE COYOTES BENCH OR AMID THE THINNING AUDIENCE (ABOVE) IN THE THIRD PERIOD – NEITHER OF WHICH MATTERED TO QUICK (BELOW).
DUSTIN BROWN RECOVERS (ABOVE) FROM DIRTY HIT BY MARTIN HANZAL THAT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY LEAD TO SUSPENSION OF THE COYOTES FORWARD.
CARTER FIRES WRIST-SHOT PAST SMITH (ABOVE) FOR HIS THIRD GOAL AT 12:56 OF THE FINAL FRAME, PROMPTING L.A. FANS TO TOSS HATS ONTO THE ICE (BELOW).
FANS LOOKING TO BEAT THE RUSH STAYED ‘TIL THE END OF LAST NIGHT’S GAME, AS MANY OTHERS VACATED EARLY… AND THEN PORED OUT OF THE ARENA AFTER CARTER’S THIRD GOAL: THE L.A. MARKSMAN RELAXING (BELOW) AS FINAL SECONDS TICKED AWAY.
KINGS LEAP OFF THE BENCH (ABOVE) AT FINAL BUZZER TO CELEBRATE THEIR RECORD-TYING SEVENTH CONSECUTIVE ROAD VICTORY FROM THE START OF THE PLAYOFFS – TYING A MARK SET BY COLORADO AVALANCHE IN 1999. ANZE KOPITAR IS INTERVIEWED (BOTTOM-RIGHT) BY RYAN RISHAUG OF TSN, AS CARTER LEAVES THE ICE.
A DISGRUNTLED COYOTES FAN SITS ALONE AS L.A. SUPPORTERS STRIKE A POSE FOR POSTERITY IN EMPTY JOBING.COM ARENA.
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