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Coyotes beat Kings to avoid elimination

LOS ANGELES -- The Clarence Campbell Bowl was in Staples Center for the first time, waiting to be presented by commissioner Gary Bettman to the NHL's Western Conference champions. The Los Angeles Kings' long-suffering fans gathered downtown shortly after dawn, eager to witness a series sweep and a coronation.

Then Captain Coyote and his goalie crashed the party for a win that suggests this series is far from finished.

Shane Doan scored two goals, Mike Smith made 36 saves in his third playoff shutout, and the Phoenix Coyotes emphatically avoided playoff elimination with a 2-0 victory in Game 4 of the conference finals Sunday.

Ray Whitney and Antoine Vermette had assists for the Coyotes, who avoided the sweep by snapping the eighth-seeded Kings' eight-game winning streak and canceling Los Angeles' plans to celebrate its first berth in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1993.

The Coyotes soundly outplayed an opponent that had been on an 11-1 run through the postseason.

"We recognize we put ourselves in a tough position, [but] we also know it has been done," said Doan, Phoenix's captain since 2003 and the sole remaining member of the Winnipeg Jets team that moved to the desert in 1996. "I guess that's what sports are all about, trying to do something that someone hasn't done for a while, try to do things [when] the odds are kind of stacked against you. Nobody wants to be in the position we're in, but everybody wants to prove they can answer that call."

Phoenix still must win three more games to become just the fourth team in NHL history to rally from an 0-3 series deficit to win a series, but the Coyotes finally regained the form they showed in knocking off Chicago and Nashville in the first two rounds.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix. Los Angeles is 7-0 on the road in the playoffs, but the Coyotes can't wait to see another whiteout in their stands.

"Two ways to look at it: They're either due to lose, or we've got to find a way to stop them," Doan said. "Law of averages says you're going to lose eventually on the road, so it happens. Next game wouldn't be a bad one [for them] to lose."

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