Can't shake this off

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Brian McNally
The classiest tradition in pro sports took a turn Tuesday night after an emotional end to the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes.

Late in overtime, Kings captain Dustin Brown, a big hitter known for skirting the edge of the rules, saw Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival crossing into the offensive zone with his head down. So Brown delivered a crunching hit. Problem: It clearly came after the whistle blew for offsides, and some critics saw it as a knee-on-knee collision -- a big no-no.

Brown wasn't whistled for a penalty, Rozsival had to be helped off the ice and on the ensuing faceoff Los Angeles ended the series on Dustin Penner's rebound goal. The Coyotes charged at the on-ice officials first, but then during the traditional post-series handshake, Phoenix captain Shane Doan and forward Martin Hanzal both had strong words for Brown about his hit.

That led to a mini-meltdown afterward in which Doan, a respected figure along the lines of a Cal Ripken, blasted the officiating in the series. And defenseman Keith Yandle pinned a lack of ownership -- the NHL collectively owns the Coyotes as it tries to finalize a sale this month -- on calls going against his team.

Whatever. Replays showed Brown's hit wasn't knee-on-knee, and he didn't even earn a hearing from the league for supplemental discipline. At worst he could have drawn a roughing call for hitting after the whistle. Either way, Los Angeles now has the stage all to itself with the NBA's Lakers and Clippers eliminated this week. The Kings not only will attempt to become the first No. 8 seed to win a Stanley Cup -- they likely will be favored over the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils even without home-ice advantage. The finals begin May 30.

A young team some saw as a dark-horse title contender before the season finally came together after the trade deadline. Darryl Sutter, hired as coach on Dec. 12, stabilized his group. And since a Feb. 23 trade for top center Jeff Carter, the goal-starved Kings are 25-7-3, including 12-2 in the postseason.

- Brian McNally

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner