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Cullen: Smith, Doan keep Coyotes alive

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Scott Cullen
5/20/2012 8:48:11 PM
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The Phoenix Coyotes staved off elimination, avoiding a sweep, with a 2-0 win over the Kings in Game Four at Los Angeles.

Phoenix managed to win despite being outshot 36-21 in the game, the eighth time in this year's playoffs that the Coyotes have been outshot by at least 15 shots in a game; they have a 4-4 record in those games.

The reason that Phoenix manages to survive while getting outshot by such a margin is the play of goaltender Mike Smith, who has recorded at least 35 saves in nine of 15 playoff games. If the Coyotes are to have any hope in this series, they need a superhuman effort from Smith but, considering the Kings' ability to get under his skin early in the series, it still seems unlikely that Smith can lead a rally for a team getting so dominated in the possession game.

Phoenix got both their goals from captain Shane Doan, his first goals of the series and the first goal was assisted by Ray Whitney, his first point of the series, ending a six-game scoreless drought. Doan also tied defenceman Derek Morris for the Coyotes' team lead with five hits.

While the Kings' number one line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams dominated territorial play, the combined for a total of seven shots on goal, so a certain amount of credit is due to Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michal Rozsival, the defence pairing that ended up against that trio most often (per www.timeonice.com).

Trevor Lewis continued to be a factor in moderate ice time (13:32), tying Drew Doughty with a game-high five shots on goal and leading the Kings with five hits. Lewis has been an unheralded contributor to the Kings in this playoff run. He scored seven points in 72 regular season games and has six points in 13 playoff games, working on a terrific third line with Jarret Stoll and Dwight King.

So, while the Coyotes have to be encouraged that they are heading home for another game, there is little reason to get optimistic about a miracle comeback because the Kings are just controlling too much of the play. If the Coyotes can change that fundamental difference, then there might be some reason for hope, but we're not there yet.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Shane Doan and Drew Doughty (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
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