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|Stoll's Spectacular Diving Goal - Sat, 22 Jan 2011|
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- At a point in the game -- and, perhaps, in their season -- when the Kings desperately needed something good to happen, it did. At a point when the Kings needed someone to step forward, three of their veteran players did just that.
Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams had a game-defining shift Saturday night, as they helped create the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Kings held on to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 on Saturday night before 13,210 at Jobing.com Arena.
Stoll dove, from just in front of the crease, and knocked a rebound past Ilya Bryzgalov at the 4:57 mark into the third period, and the Kings were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
A loss would have been devastating, and would have dropped the Kings into 13th place in the Western Conference. Instead, they're now four points behind eighth-place San Jose. The game was far from perfect. Yes, the Kings had to scramble after losing all of a 3-0 first-period lead. Yes, the power play hasn't contributed a goal in two weeks.
Given their lack of recent wins, and given that Jobing.com Arena has been something of a house of horrors, the Kings took the two points, exhaled and went home happy, having avenged a controversial 2-0 loss to the Coyotes on home on Thursday night.
``To hear some music in the dressing room after a win is nice, and see some smiles around here,'' Stoll said. ``We got two points and they got none. That's a good night, however you look at it. There were a lot of good things here tonight. We had a lot of good things against these guys at home on Thursday and didn't get the result. Tonight, we got the result, and we've got to build from here. We have to have a good day at practice tomorrow and get ready for Monday and a big, huge two games before the break.''
The Kings took a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into the game, on goals by Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, but their three-goal lead lasted only 52 seconds, as the Kings once again allowed a goal quickly after scoring.
Phoenix scored two second-period goals to tie the game, but Stoll's diving poke at a rebound, 4:57 into the third period, held up as the game-winning goal. Stoll spotted the puck in the blue paint, behind the goalie, dove and knocked it over the line. Stoll, flat on his stomach, pumped his arms in celebration as the Kings took a 4-3 lead.
``I didn't know how long the puck would be there for,'' Stoll said. ``I knew the puck was there somewhere, so I knew I had to dive and try to find it and get to it. We had a good shift there. We did some good things, got in the cycle and created some chances off the forecheck. We finally got a loose puck and put it away.''
The goal was the product of some great work by all players on the ice and came at the end of a 50-second shift in which the Kings controlled the puck, kept pressure on goalie Ilya Brzgalov and didn't allow the Coyotes time to make a line change.
Eventually, Williams passed to the slot, to Jack Johnson, whose slap shot was deflected by Ryan Smyth on the way to the net. The rebound popped behind Bryzgalov for a moment and Stoll dove and knocked in the puck with the blade of his stick.
``It was a special kind of shift,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``That's a shift you would pull off (video) and show your team and encourage them to follow that template. It was a 35-, 40-second shift, cycling, moving their feet, finding people, and then a great effort at the end, by Stoll, to pounce on that loose puck. An important goal for us, obviously. It takes your top players to go out and make it happen for you.''
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who had lost four consecutive decisions, made a handful of excellent stops among his 23 saves and certainly played well enough to win.
The Kings outshot the Coyotes 33-26 and got the win despite going 0-for-3 on the power play -- they're now 0-for-22 in their last seven games -- and giving up a 3-0 lead when it looked as though the Kings would roll to victory.
Things are never easy for the Kings against the Coyotes though, particularly in Arizona.
The Kings were riding high, winners of four consecutive games, when they got to Phoenix in late December. The Coyotes spanked the Kings 6-3 on Dec. 29, starting a stretch that saw the Kings go 2-10-0 and fall from fourth place to 12th place.
Phoenix had been 3-0-0 against the Kings this season, so any victory over the Coyotes is good news for the Kings, even if it had its warts.
``Whenever you go through a bit of a streak like that, it's going to take a big effort,'' Quick said. ``Even if you're winning five or six in a row, every game, you need a big effort to win. There are no gimmes in this league, especially here in the West. There's a lot of talented teams, so we have to come to play every night. We got a big win here, and we're looking to move forward and build on the momentum that we started here tonight.''
Everything went right for the Kings in the first 14 minutes of the first period.
The Kings got on the scoreboard 1:22 into the game. After a defensive-zone faceoff win, the Coyotes attempted a breakout pass, but Matt Greene got his stick on the puck in the neutral zone and pushed it ahead to start a 2-on-1. Williams passed to Smyth, who passed back to Williams in close range, and Williams scored to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
Doughty gave the Kings a 2-0 lead at the 7:31 mark. Anze Kopitar won an offensive-zone faceoff and pushed the puck back to Doughty. At the blue line, Doughty faked a shot, took a couple strides and ripped a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Ilya Bryzgalov, through traffic.
The Kings, who had totaled two goals in their previous three games, scored their third goal of the first period with 6:27 remaining. Martinez skated to a puck near the left boards and one-timed it toward the net and beat Bryzgalov, short side, to put the Kings up 3-0.
The three-goal lead lasted only 52 seconds, as Taylor Pyatt, after a battle along the boards, picked up a loose puck near the top of the right circle, turned and fired. With traffic directly in front of Quick, Pyatt's shot got deflected by Lee Stempniak as the Coyotes pulled within 3-1 with 5:35 remaining in the period.
``It was a good first period,'' Murray said, ``as far as the structure and the attitude about getting pucks in, getting on it on the forecheck. We were skating very well. I thought we stirred up some loose pucks on boards, recovered them and made good things happen. You get it up top, with traffic. We got a couple goals off that look, so I'd like to encourage that same start, every game.''
Phoenix pulled within 3-2 with a power-play goal 3:05 into the second period. Ray Whitney pushed the puck down low to Keith Yandle, who deftly made a short, centering pass. Martin Hanzal found some space in front of the net and slipped a backhand shot past the prone Quick.
The Coyotes completed their three-goal comeback by tying the game at 3-3 with 1:13 remaining in the second period. Stempniak carried the puck into the Kings zone and, wit Johnson in front of him, fired a high wrist shot from the left circle that beat Quick.
``Despite giving up the three unanswered there, going into the third, everyone in the locker room was 100-percent confident in each other and themselves,'' Quick said. ``We knew what we had to do, and we went out there and did it. I think it was a step in the right direction here. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we're not going to get ahead of ourselves. We're going to take it one game at a time here, and work our way back into our top eight.''
The Kings took the lead back 4:57 into the third period. Williams held the puck low in the offensive zone and pushed it up to Johnson in the slot. Johnson ripped a slap shot and Bryzgalov made the save, but the puck trickled behind him for a moment. Stoll went to the net, dove and knocked the puck over the line to give the Kings a 4-3 lead.
With the Coyotes' net empty in the final minute, Dustin Brown hit the goal post, but the Kings were able to hold on for the victory.
``It's a great two points,'' Stoll said. ``Not a pretty two points. We had a great first period. We knew they would come hard in the second, and they did. We didn't do a great job of being ready for that in the second. We talked about it after the first. But I think in the third period, we came out and played our game. We hung on at the end, and Quickie did a great job of making some saves and we got some big plays from guys on the wall, getting some pucks out and getting pucks in.''
The Kings now have home games against two traditionally strong teams -- Boston and San Jose -- before their All-Star break begins. Continued momentum will be needed.
``I feel like we've had a few games here, over the past four or five, where we were right there and we deserved to win games,'' Quick said, ``and it just kind of didn't work out for whatever reason. Tonight, we battled hard. We came out flying. Especially at home, they're known to come out and take control with their play in the first 10 minutes. I thought that not only did we weather the storm, but we took over there, the whole first period, and played great hockey. We were fortunate to finish it up 4-3 there.''