The best day in the history of the Phoenix Coyotes?


The best day in the history of the Phoenix Coyotes?

From Comcast SportsNetGLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- An hour before one of the biggest games in franchise history, the Phoenix Coyotes learned a deal was in place for a new owner, one they hoped would end three years of uncertainty.They celebrated in typical fashion: grinding out another victory.This one, though, will take them somewhere they've never been before: the Western Conference finals.Relying again on their grit and the superb goaltending of Mike Smith, the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Monday night to earn their first trip to the conference finals in 33 years as an NHL franchise."It feels great right now, a lot of hard work," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "It's been a battle the past few years, but it's a lot of fun and we're blessed to be where we are right now."The day started off with news the Coyotes and their fans had been anticipating for three years.Speaking as players from both teams warmed up in the hallway, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that a tentative deal had been reached to sell the Coyotes to former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.The Coyotes paid it no mind. They had spent the previous three seasons with the uncertainty hanging over them and had learned to keep their focus on the ice, not what happens off it.Playing its usual counterpunching style, Phoenix withstood an early flurry by Nashville and followed with goals from Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal in the second period.And, as usual, the Coyotes gave up a late goal to make it interesting, this one by Colin Wilson with just under 6 minutes left.Phoenix has become accustomed to seat-of-their-pants victories, though, and they pulled out another one, nearly getting an empty-net goal by Smith before setting off a raucous celebration on the ice rink surrounded by desert.Next up for the Coyotes are the Los Angeles Kings, the first No. 8 seed to knock off Nos. 1 and 2 in the same playoffs."We've learned a lot as a group who we are and every guy has contributed in the series and the playoffs," said Smith, who stopped 32 shots. "It's been different guys in different series and it's been a big part of our success."Nashville, as it did all series, had plenty of good chances against Smith. Even forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back from two-game suspensions, the Predators couldn't find a way to capitalize, hitting the post at least three times and managing one goal despite outshooting the Coyotes 33-17.The loss knocks Nashville out of the playoffs in the conference semifinals for the second straight season."They found a way to keep the puck out of the net," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "In the end, we had enough chances to win this series, but we didn't win. We couldn't bury anything past Smith."The Coyotes got some long-awaited good news before the game, when Bettman announced the league had a tentative deal to sell the team to Jamison.There's no official sale agreement yet and Jamison still needs to work out lease details with the city of Glendale, which could be a dicey proposition with conservative watchdog group the Goldwater Institute lurking. Still, after three years of waiting, the move toward ownership and staying in the desert took a big step.It had already been a great season.Relying on Smith and their protect-at-all-costs mentality, the unflashy Coyotes won their first division title as an NHL franchise and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.Phoenix moved within the brink of the conference finals for the first time by beating Nashville twice in the desert and again in Game 4 on Smith's second shutout of the playoffs.With Arena juiced and Bettman, not to mention their potential new boss in the house, the Coyotes played their pack-in-and-counter game the way they have all playoffs.Nashville had the advantage early in a tight first period, Phoenix took it late, but neither scored.The Coyotes broke through early in the second, when Pekka Rinne made a kick save on a breakaway by Shane Doan, but couldn't stop Morris' shot from the point after Phoenix reset.The Predators tried to rally, turning up the pressure.Instead of the tying goal, they hit the post three times -- twice in one rapid-fire sequence -- and had another shot blocked by diving Coyotes. Smith also made a snatching save on a wrister by Gabriel Bourque.Phoenix then went back to its counterattacking ways, with Kyle Chipchura breaking out, holding, then setting up Hanzal's wrister that Rinne couldn't see with a defender in his way."That is kind of how the series went," Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We didn't capitalize on their chances and they came back and it ended up in the back of our net."Up 2-0, the Coyotes packed it in, diving to block shots while giving the Predators only slivers of shooting lanes.Wilson squeezed a puck through one of them with 5:59 left, flicking a pass from David Legwand past Smith, ending his scoreless streak of more than 160 minutes.The Coyotes wouldn't let them score again and Smith nearly ended it with a flourish, missing an empty-net by a few inches with 2 seconds left.It didn't matter at that point -- the Coyotes were on their way to the conference finals, capping one of the biggest days in franchise history with another wipe-the-brow victory."Coyote ugly -- that's kind of been the motto here," Smith said. "We just find a way to win."Notes: Doan played his 50th career playoff game. ... The team that scored first won every game in the series. ... Nashville went 0 for 4 on the power play. ... Phoenix played without D Rostislav Klesla, who was suspended a game by the league for his Game 4 hit on Nashville forward Matt Halischuk.

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WATCH: Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins arrive at Heathrow Airport

WATCH: Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins arrive at Heathrow Airport

Wearing matching team sweatsuits — as well as matching looks of weariness — the Redskins landed at Heathrow Airport on Friday around 9 a.m. local time and were greeted by eager fans looking to get a rare glimpse of their visiting favorite NFL team.

Scot McCloughan, DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker were seen striding through the jetway after the group's plane arrived. Inside of the terminal, Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman posed for selfies and signed some autographs for a handful of supporters donning Burgundy and Gold. 

To see all of CSN's footage of Washington's first steps in London, watch the video in the player above.


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Morning tip: Brooks ponders fixes for Wizards' 2nd unit after loss to Hawks

Morning tip: Brooks ponders fixes for Wizards' 2nd unit after loss to Hawks

ATLANTA -- The first three shots taken by bench players, two from Andrew Nicholson and one by Trey Burke, went in. That's pretty much where the highlights ended for the Wizards' reserves in a 114-99 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The rest of the time they were at a loss at what to do in half-court offense.

"There were a lot of times you couldn't hear the play call," said forward-center Jason Smith, who had four turnovers in just nine minutes. "It was a great away atmosphere. We have to learn to deal with that. We have to learn maybe some visual cues on what the play is, maybe some silent calls what the play is but really get it out there so everybody see it. As long as we get into what we're running no matter how loud it is, we all know what we're doing. We'll be OK."

The biggest weakness with the Wizards in previous seasons was a bench that was inconsistent. This group is younger and has more versatility, but basic communication was a problem with Burke who is in his first year in Washington.

After Kelly Oubre opened the second quarter with a three-pointer for a 30-29 lead, the Hawks went on a 9-0 run. Marcus Thornton missed a three-pointer, Smith stepped out of bounds after grabbing a defensive rebound, Oubre missed a layup, Smith missed a jumper, Burke had a bad pass turnover, Oubre missed a three, Nicholson missed consecutive shots and had a turnover. 

Coach Scott Brooks saw enough and was forced to call a timeout. He trusted the group and sent them back out again and Burke was short on his jump shot.

"The thing I'm thinking of now, it's just one game," Brooks said. "They will get better. We will play better. I thought that second unit, we still have to figure out how we can score. We have to really just focus on getting stops helping us score. ... It was an entire team issue. We're all in it together. We have to figure out how to keep scoring, keep moving the ball with that second unit."

Wall made an assessment of what he wants to see from Burke, who is slotted above Tomas Satoransky as the primary backup.

"We got lost at times when we weren't moving the ball," Wall said. "Defensively, we just lost our man and that hurt. I think they've got to get into sets more. Trey got to do a better job of calling out (plays) so everybody can hear it so you don't have certain people running one play and some people running another play."

Last season, the reserves were run by Ramon Sessions. They didn't try to play in flow as much as Wall with the first unit, going into immediate pick-and-roll action to put the defense on its heels. They preferred a more structured half-court offense.

"First, we have to get on the same page. It's a lot easier if we would get stops on the defensive end," said Smith. "Then we could push the ball out where we won't have to get into sets. We could get easy transition baskets, easy drive-and-kick in transition. ... It's tough for any team to score on a set defense."

Nicholson had nine points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes. Burke was 4 of 7 but Oubre shot 1-for-6 and Thornton 2-for-8. 

"I don't think you can point the finger at anybody. Me being the point guard out there, I feel I could've done a better job setting things up," Burke said. "It's Game 1. You can't take too much from Game 1. We can definitely get better from it. We don't think it was the offensive end. It's definitley the defensive end.

"It's contagious. If your defense is slacking, your offense is going to be slacking. If the other team is scoring easy buckets on the offensive end, defesnviely they're fired up. It's a two way street for both units."

[RELATED: Wall falls hard on previously broken hand]