GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Battered and beaten down from a brutal stretch on the road, the Phoenix Coyotes reeled off 11 straight wins in February, knocking off some of the best teams in hockey.
The streak became the impetus for their current run, one that's taken them farther than any other team in the franchise's 33-year NHL history.
"When we went on that streak in February, we thought, 'We can beat anybody now,'" Coyotes captain Shane Doan said.
It's sure looking that way.
Needing a big push to get into the playoffs, the Coyotes not only got in, they won their final five regular-season games to claim a tight race for the Pacific Division title, the franchise's first NHL division crown.
Supposedly overmatched by the speed and skill of Chicago in the first round, Phoenix bogged the fleet Blackhawks down and survived five overtime games to advance in the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
The Coyotes followed that up with an impressive performance in the second round, winning the battle of similar styles with Nashville to win in five games.
They capped the series with one of the most monumental days in team history, starting with the announcement that a new owner was in place and punctuated with a 2-1 win over the Predators that sent them to the Western Conference finals for the first time.
Next up is a nobody-saw-this-coming conference finals matchup with the Los Angeles Kings, division rivals who surprised the hockey world by becoming the first No. 8 seed to knock off Nos. 1 and 2 — Vancouver and St. Louis — in the same playoffs.
"I think the best part is so many people told you this could never happen," Doan said. "It feels really nice to be living this right now."
It's been a long road.
After moving from Winnipeg to the Valley of the Sun before the 1996-97 season, the Coyotes failed to win a playoff series in seven tries and didn't get into the postseason seven other times.
They had to endure the team going into bankruptcy and played three straight seasons without an owner, constantly wondering if they'd be moving someplace else.
Perhaps the toughest season came last year, when the team was swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs amid rumors that the team was headed back to Winnipeg.
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