The Los Angeles Kings are returning to the NHL’s Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the Wayne Gretzky era, confirming their place with a 4-3 overtime win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, completing a 4-1 series win.
Dustin Penner scored the winning goal 17 minutes, 42 seconds into overtime, gathering a bouncing puck and beating Coyotes goalie Mike Smith between the pads. That extended the Kings’ road winning streak to an NHL-record eight straight games.
“I got a lucky bounce,” Penner said. “I just waited for it to settle down, and I got a chance to get it in the net.”
Anze Kopitar scored a short-handed goal, Drew Doughty had a goal and an assist, and Mike Richards also scored for Los Angeles.
The first team to go undefeated on the road en route to the Stanley Cup finals, the Kings will play Game 1 on May 30 in either New Jersey or New York, whose Eastern Conference finals series is locked 2-2.
Los Angeles is in the final round for the first time since 1993, when Gretzky and the Kings lost to the Montreal Canadiens in their only finals appearance.
Taylor Pyatt had a goal and an assist, while Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Keith Yandle also scored for the Coyotes in their first trip to the Western Conference finals.
Riding the confidence carryover from winning Game 4, the Coyotes dominated early, controlling the puck, giving the Kings little room in the neutral zone or anywhere else. Phoenix had some good scoring chances early and Pyatt cashed in on a power-play, redirecting Martin Hanzal’s one-timer in the slot 4:20 into the game.
“The first period was tough,” Penner said. “They threw everything at us. [Goaltender Jonathan] Quick hung in there for us, made some big saves, and we battled back. We couldn’t have done it without him.”
The Kings snatched a little momentum back with their fifth short-handed goal of the playoffs. Kopitar got it, redirecting a shot by Doughty past Smith off a faceoff after Phoenix’s goalie was called for icing.
In the second period, Pouliot gave Phoenix back the lead by flipping a backhander past Quick on a loose puck for his first career playoff goal. Doughty tied it a few minutes later, scoring from just inside the blue line on a shot Smith had trouble seeing through traffic.
Richards scored on rebound to put Los Angeles up 3-2, Yandle tied it again after a pass by Pyatt caromed off his right leg past Quick.
Both teams had numerous scoring chances in a hectic third period, but both goalies made some superb saves.
They went back and forth in the overtime, too, until Penner finally ended it when a shot by Jeff Carter caromed out front to him in the slot.
With it, the Kings, after a 19-year wait and some dicey moments against the Coyotes, are finally headed back to the finals.
“It feels great,” Penner said. “We just had to worry about ourselves. And we were able to battle back.”