Updated May 21, 2012 - 10:56 am
Coyotes beat Kings, Arizona gets its Game 5
Following Thursday's 2-1 loss I texted a friend, who happens to be a Kings fan, and told him I'd be shocked if we get a Game 5.
"So would the Coyotes."
I did not think the Coyotes had it in them to beat the Kings, as it appeared they had given Los Angeles their best shot and still lost.
Out-hustled, out-played and out-classed: Phoenix had nothing going for them except for pride.
And, it turns out, that was enough to steal Game 4.
"We'd been through a lot of battles together," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after the win. "We might as well continue battling for a while. That was what the mindset was going in.
"We put too much work in to let this slip away. It's time to see if we can work back a little bit."
Chances are the Coyotes still won't win this series; only thrice in NHL history has a team rallied from a 0-3 deficit to win. But standing up for themselves not with playing dirty but, rather, playing well, was nice to see.
After all, this is supposed to be hockey the hard way, and without a doubt it has been. However, as long as they're still around, why not make it a little difficult on their opponents, too?
"Tonight we had nothing to lose," goalie Mike Smith said after the game. Smith stopped all 36 shots he faced in what was his third shutout of this postseason. "We had to make sure we played our best game. That would give us a chance to win."
It did, and they did.
The Coyotes came out needing a win Sunday, wanting to show that they did indeed belong in the Western Conference Final. No one should doubt that, but when you fail to win a game in a series people will naturally question your credentials.
Which is why stepping up like they did, preventing the celebration that was rehearsed Thursday night was a pleasant sight. While the Kings may very well win the series (and probably will, unfortunately), they'll have to work hard for at least another 60 minutes to do so.
Make ‘em sweat a little, you know?
"Nobody wants to be in the position we're in, but everybody wants to prove they can kind of answer that call," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said Sunday. Doan, of course, scored the only two goals of the game, providing the offensive lift the team had desperately needed.
"We got an unbelievable group of guys in our room," he continued. "It sounds cliché-ish, every team that reaches this point says the same thing about their guys, but I really think our guys are special. We got just a good group and I like it."
The Coyotes, as a group, have shown as much resolve as any team in the NHL. Whether it's ownership issues, fan support (or lack thereof), mid-season struggles, they've always found a way to come out on top.
Perhaps Smith said it best, though, when asked if the team played "desperate" Sunday.
"I think we played desperate since January," he said, eliciting laughter. "But that goes without saying; we were down 3-0 going into this game.
"If there's any point in the season when you're desperate, I think knowing you can go home if you lose this game, I think that's where desperation sets in."
In fact, the Coyotes are going home, but not to begin their offseason. There will be at least 60 more minutes of hockey in the desert, and as surprising as it may be, that's 60 more than most would have expected.
And when it comes to this team, as cliché-ish as it may sound, perhaps expecting the unexpected is really the way to go.
- The 5: Top storylines heading into Arizona Cardinals training camp
- LeBron James will help the Phoenix Suns even if he doesn't sign with them
- Declaring independence: What Arizona's teams would like to move on from
- The Five: Ryan McDonough's best moves in first year as Phoenix Suns' GM
- Arizona Diamondbacks' struggles: Follow the money