Game 5 is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Coyotes refuse to quit
The Phoenix Coyotes had every reason to concede the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Kings.
They had been overwhelmed in opener, lost their composure in Game 2 and found themselves on the brink of elimination despite playing better the third game. Even with a sweep, it would have been considered a good season in Phoenix.
That's just not the makeup of this team.
These desert dogs are at their best when cornered and they took the first step toward digging out of a monumental hole by beating the Kings, 2-0, in Los Angeles Sunday.
There's still a long way to go, starting with Game 5 Tuesday night in the desert, but a chance, even just a slight one, is all this team seems to need.
"We had no other choice; if we didn't show up yesterday, we wouldn't be talking today," Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said Monday after Phoenix's optional practice at Jobing.com Arena. "We're in the same situation tomorrow. We put ourselves in a bad situation, but tomorrow's mind-set will be the same: If we lose, there's no other chance to play."
After grinding series against Chicago and Nashville to reach the conference finals for the first time, Phoenix appeared to be overmatched by the Kings' combination of skill, size and grit.
Their season on the line, the Coyotes got back to grind-every-shift ways in Game 4, packing in front of goalie Mike Smith on defense, forechecking to create opportunities on offense and winning the individual battles they had lost in the previous three games.
Captain Shane Doan led the way with big hits and two big goals, and Smith had another rise-to-the-moment game in the crease, turning away 36 shots for his third shutout of the playoffs - all on the road.
The Coyotes have played through more adversity in three years than some franchises go through, playing without an owner, no money to chase big-name players and with the uncertainty of wondering where they'll play the next season.
They also tend to play a by-the-seat-of-their-pants style, weathering their opponents' best shot - often numerous shots - before fighting back with a decisive blow. They played in the NHL's first playoff series to open with five overtime games since 1951 against Chicago.
The Coyotes thrive at the brink of calamity and still find themselves on the edge of it.
"We're in the same boat we were the other night," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "If we don't play well and we don't win, we go home."
New York Rangers forward Brandon Prust was suspended for one game by the NHL for his elbow to the head of New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov during New York's win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
- Associated Press