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Final (mercifully): Coyotes 6, Kings 3

December 29, 2010 |  8:39 pm

Match the Kings, whose sterling defensive play and goaltending had given them the NHL’s second-best team goals-against average and a four-game winning streak, against the Phoenix Coyotes, who had been held to a single goal in each of their last four games, and what do you get?

A completely unexpected collapse by the Kings and a scoring spree for the Coyotes.

Phoenix scored four times in the first period Wednesday and sent Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick to the bench by scoring six times on 18 shots midway through the second period, a surprising display by both teams in a 6-3 victory for the Coyotes before a crowd of 15,153 at Jobing.com Arena.

The Kings (22-13-1) will finish a stretch of four games in five nights by facing the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at Staples Center. Jonathan Bernier was scheduled to start that game before he was called on Wednesday to relieve Quick, and it seems likely that plan won’t change. He actually made several good saves during his time in net Wednesday.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan had the 36th two-goal game of his career — the veteran winger has never recorded a hat trick in the NHL — and teammates Scottie Upshall (one goal, two assists) and Keith Yandle (three assists) each contributed two points.

Anze Kopitar led the Kings with two points, both assists. Brad Richardson, Ryan Smyth (on the power play) and Marco Sturm, on an inadvertent deflection, scored the Kings’ goals.

The Kings gave up as many goals Wednesday as they had in their previous five games combined. They gave the puck away with dismaying frequency, made poor decisions in their own zone and generally stunk out the joint.

They’ve been so good lately, especially in goal, there’s no reason to panic. But the scramble for playoff position in the Western Conference is so tight that any missed chance to gain ground has to be regretted — and then quickly forgotten.

More later at www.latimes.com/sports.

-- Helene Elliott in Glendale, Ariz.

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