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HOCKEY

Kings one win away from Stanley Cup finals

They continue amazing postseason run with a 2-1 victory over Coyotes, and take a 3-0 lead in series.

May 17, 2012|By Lisa Dillman

They were mere steps away from each other in the giddy, crowded hallway at Staples Center: Tim Leiweke and Bruce McNall.

The present and past nearly collided Thursday night, the bookend faces of a long and winding and often frustrating hockey journey for the Kings' franchise.

Nineteen years after McNall's Kings reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time, Leiweke's Kings are on the verge of their second appearance in the finals.

"Memories," said McNall, the former owner.

They are creating new ones, a single win from the finals after a 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. The Kings got the game-winner in the third period from red-hot rookie Dwight King, who has four goals in three games of this series.

He beat Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with a sharp wrist shot from the right circle at 1:47 of the third, saying: "I was kind of seeing who was open and when they gave me the extra step, I shot it."

The Kings are riding an eight-game winning streak and are 11-1 in the playoffs. Game 4 is Sunday afternoon at Staples.

Not surprisingly, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter wasn't buying into a certain D-word.

"Destiny? What is that?" he asked, causing a round of laughter in his postgame news conference.

Sutter also joked about the two days of rest before Game 4.

"We get 60 hours to rest, as long no one is in that bike race," Sutter said.

Their last loss was April 18, and for those marveling at the ease of their run through the postseason, remember, this was a team that did not qualify for the playoffs until the second-to-last-day of the season.

Of course, there is the overwhelming statistic always trotted out this time in a series: Only three teams have recovered to win after trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup playoffs — the Maple Leafs in 1942, the Islanders in 1975 and the Flyers in 2010.

If the first line carried the Kings in Game 1 and the second did so in Game 2, it was the third line of King, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis stepping forward to assume the heavy lifting in Game 3.

Goalie Jonathan Quick (18 saves) held the Coyotes in check until his teammates became fully engaged in the proceedings. The Coyotes took a one-goal lead in the second period ... and held it for 2 minutes and 7 seconds.

Coyotes center Daymond Langkow and the Kings' Anze Kopitar, who scored on a breakaway, traded goals as they game finally opened up after a tactical first period.

"Every time you need different guys stepping up, Kinger is doing it right now," Stoll said. "Quickie has been doing it all season. You go through a long playoff run and you have a chance to play deep in the playoffs, you need different guys to step up. You need different ways of winning and we've had that.

"We had to find our game the first half of this game. We can't expect to do that again in Game 4. We can't rely on Quickie to make big saves in first period."

Stoll, who played a strong two-way game, is symbolic of the Kings' commitment. When the Kings traded for Mike Richards in the off-season, Stoll dropped to the third line, obviously facing a change in ice time.

"Stollie's awesome, man," said Kings defenseman Matt Greene, who was also his teammate in Edmonton. "He's an awesome two-way center. I've had the pleasure of playing with him for a long time and he's a stud. I think he does a lot of things he doesn't get credit for. The media is on him for not scoring 20 [goals] every year, but he does a lot of things that go unnoticed and help you win games.

"He's an ultimate team guy. He'd play anything as long as it was going to get us a win."

The Coyotes have been frustrated throughout this series, and Coach Dave Tippett had some sharp words afterward.

"If I told you what I really thought, I think it would cost me a lot of money," Tippett said in his postgame news conference. "I've talked about this in a lot of meetings with our general manager, that the game is turning a little dishonest and it's embellishment by players."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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