Coyotes Drop Vanishing Kings|
By Ray Van Horn, Jr. Copyright 1999
In a battle between two banged-up teams, the Los Angeles Kings visited the Phoenix Coyotes on March 21st in a game they desperately needed to win. By game's end, however, the Kings were drubbed by the home team, 4-1.
The Kings, consciously aware of their diminishing playoff hopes with a squeaky 59 points in the standings, appeared ready to their task by establishing some early authority with aggressive checking (though Phoenix delivered the hardest hits) and excellent zone penetration. A fight between Steve McKenna and Phoenix's Jim Cummins, as well as the looming presence of Ray Ferraro on both ends of the ice, were simply not enough to spark the Kings against a superior Coyotes squad.
Phoenix scored first at 7:52 of the opening period on a Keith Tkachuk/Robert Reichel combination. It was Tkachuk's 30th goal on the season, and his 8th in his last 9 games. Reichel picked up his first assist as a Coyote, the first of his 2 points in the game.
L.A. immediately answered 24 seconds later as Luc Robitaille punched through a Ray Ferraro set-up past Nikolai Khabibulin at 8:16. Robitaille scored for the 32nd time this year.
The Coyotes went up 2-1 on an Oleg Tverdovsky wrist shot at 14:00. Tverdovsky picked up his 6th goal for the year and his first in 45 games. Bob Corkum and Juha Ylonen were each credited with an assist.
Despite an inspiring second period power play foil against the Coyotes, in which the Kings reeled off 3 shorthanded shots, Phoenix found the net again at 5:13. Rick Tocchet fought through double coverage to slip the pass to Darren Quint, who fired a slapshot over the shoulder of a slow-reacting Jamie Storr, increasing the Coyotes' lead to 3-1.
The Coyotes added insult to injury as Robert Reichel snatched his first Coyote goal (and 20th of the season) on an empty-netter at 19:22 of the final period.
The Kings played well, but were simply outclassed, especially by Khabibulin, who stopped 37 of 38 shots. Khabibulin has mastered the Kings this year, going 4-1-0 against them, with a .963 save percentage and 1.00 GAA.
The Kings are nearly out of the playoff hunt, as they fell to 26-38-5 and 11-20-2 on the road, while Phoenix rolled to 34-24-12, still fourth best in the Western Conference. Phoenix increased their playoff standing points to 6 over Anaheim, who lost to the Florida Panthers the same evening.
Copyright©1999 The HockeyNut