The Phoenix Coyotes are headed to the NHL Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history after their 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the semifinals Monday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Phoenix won the series with Nashville 4-1. Goaltender Mike Smith recorded 32 saves and the Coyotes showed determination and desire to put away the Predators, scoring twice and defending well, especially in the last six minutes of the game when Nashville pressed for a tying goal.
If it seems strange to say that the Coyotes are in the final four of the NHL, it is. This is a team that didn't have a full-time owner the past three seasons. Year after year, players, coaches and staff wondered if they'd even be in Arizona to play another season.
And on a night when prospective new owner Greg Jamison was in town announce a preliminary agreement to buy the Coyotes and see firsthand just what he will be getting, the Coyotes put on a show for Jamison, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and a sellout crowd.
"It's been hard being a Phoenix Coyotes fan the last few years," captain Shane Doan, an original Coyote, said, unable to keep a grin off his face.
It isn't now. If Jobing.com wasn't a madhouse before, it's about to be crazy when the next Whiteout takes place -- to be announced. Winning one round was historic. Winning a second round series was downright crazy given the history of this franchise. Imagine what could happen if the Coyotes somehow do it again?
"Ultimately, our players recognize that if we win, it's good for everybody: coaches, trainers, management, Glendale, Phoenix," Coyotes coacg Dave Tippett said." Our players have done an unbelievable job at focusing on the task at hand and what they can control, and that is to play well."
Goals by Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal (see videos below, from NBC Sports Network telecast) were all the offense the home team needed. Smith was strong once again, as he has been all season and even more so in the playoffs.
The Coyotes killed off four Predators' power plays. But the whole arena got nervous when Colin Wilson redirected a David Legwand pass into the net past Smith with 5:59 to play in the game.
From there, it was hang-on time, as the Predators rushed the net in an effort to force overtime. Goalie Pekka Rinne exited with about 41 seconds to play, but the Coyotes cleared the puck twice and time expired.
"By no means do we feel we've accomplished anything," Doan told NBC Sports. "But we're halfway there."
Cue up the Bon Jovi.
The Coyotes will host the Los Angeles Kings, who are the hottest team in the NHL after sweeping the St. Louis Blues and made history by winning series against the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the playoffs. The Kings are the eighth seed from the West.