Dwight King's early third period goal would be the difference for the Los Angeles Kings as they beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 and took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
The Kings are now only the sixth team to win 11 of their first 12 games of the postseason, and they are doing it as an eighth seed. However, the last three to accomplish this feat have not won the cup.
Only three teams have come back from being down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs: the Toronto Maple Leafs (1942), the New York Islanders (1975) and the Philadelphia Flyers (2010)
It was a closely contested game until the Kings took over in the third period.
"We wanted to have our own push in front of our owns fans, show our push," said Kings forward Jarret Stoll, whose hustle set up King's goal. "It took us a while to get our own game (going), but we did, especially in the third period."
The Coyotes lackadaisical play with the puck in their own end, coupled with the Kings brutal forecheck, would end up being the difference in Game 3. King's game-winning goal at 1:47 of the third would come off a Michael Stone turnover, and he would then beat Mike Smith with a wicked wrister.
Smith would finish the game with 26 saves, while his counterpart at the other end, Jonathan Quick, would stop 18 of 19 pucks shot his way.
Smith has continued to play stellar this series, but has got little offensive help. The Coyotes are averaging just a goal a game in the series.
Penalties were yet again a problem for the 'Yotes. They gave the Kings talented roster five chances on the man-advantage, compared to their one power play opportunity. While the Kings did not score on the power play, it wore the Coyotes defense down.
Two very questionable calls ended the game. First, Vrbata was called for a weak slash at 19:18 while the Coyotes had the goalie pulled. A majority of the time the referees let the teams play within the last minute of a one goal game, but this basically put the nail in the coffin for the Coyotes.
The other head-scratcher came at 14:46 as Shane Doan and Drew Doughty were called for coinsidental holding penalties. Doughty executed a form tackle on Doan that would have made Ray Lewis proud, and while both exchanged behind the play, it seemed Doughty went unpunished for his tackle.
Referees are rarely ever the reason for a team winning though, and it was obvious the Kings were the better team in Game 3. Players like Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, who were keys to the Coyotes regular season success, have gone missing in this series. The team has been unable to establish an offensive zone presence and the Kings have exposed that.
Dustin Brown has continued to be a pest for the Coyotes. The Kings captain has not only been showing up on the score sheet, but also in the nightmares of the Coyotes players.
In Game 2 it became obvious that any opportunity the 'Yotes have to take a whack at the leader of the Kings would be taken. In Game 3, young Oliver Ekman-Larsson would fall prey to Brown. OEL would hit Brown after the play at 13:22 of the third and give L.A. a man-advantage opportunity and momentum.
Some Coyote fans have petitioned to get Brown on the U.S. Olympic Diving team, but you have to give the Kings captain his due. He has almost single-handily dismantled the usually level headed Coyotes roster.
The Kings are on the verge of their first Stanley Cup Final in 19 years, but the brooms should stay in the closet. Doan and his Coyotes will not go down without a fight. While coming back from a 3-0 deficit is rare, this team has defied great odds just to get where they are now.
The Coyotes just need to get that first win and go from there.
Side Note: The employees of Staples Center should all be commended after the next four days are over. Staples Center will host six playoff games in the next four days. The Lakers and Clippers will play back-to-back NBA playoff contest, while the Kings play again Sunday.