As many predicted, it wasn’t pretty but the Phoenix Coyotes were able to edge the Predators in overtime Friday night by a score of 4-3. Nashville completely dominated the third period and most of overtime only to have a costly icing, another Martin Hanzal face-off win and a Ray Whitney back-hand poke to wind up in the back of the net. Phoenix leads the series 1-0.
Mike Smith is living up to the hype from the Chicago series and Pekka Rinne performed admirably but an unfortunate redirect and a two-on-one opportunity would see Phoenix cashing in on goals. Another fluky bounce led to the Predators opening goal with Yip depositing in the open net. Overall, it was a very good hockey game and the Predators despite a huge advantage in chances and shots succumbed to the Coyotes in much the same fashion that saw Chicago lose their first game of the series.
Puck drop is at 7 P.M. Central and the game can be viewed on the NBC Sports Network. Pete Weber and Terry Crisp will have the call locally on 102.5 the Game.
The Keys for Phoenix: Phoenix came out fast and hard causing the Predators to take an early penalty that set up for Vrbata’s first goal of the series. The Predators would keep answering back after each Phoenix goal but the overtime tally sealed the victory for a scrappy Phoenix squad.
Mike Smith will have to continue his dazzling play that kept Chicago reeling and Nashville dumbfounded in the third and overtime periods. Nashville did manage to get three past Smith and had some spot-on chances handled easily. What Phoenix could not do, however, was fend off the onslaught of chances the Predators had.
Later on in the game, it became more apparent that the first round of the playoffs may have taken it’s toll on the Coyotes and by the third period, the Coyotes didn’t have much of anything to counter the Predators salvo of attacks. One shot on goal in the third is a pretty telling sign that Phoenix was winded and just trying to play keep away.
The saving grace for the Coyotes is that the smallest advantage Nashville gave them, they capitalized on it. The two-on-one, the blocked pass from Josi that came right back to Klesla’s stick, the opening power play of the first period and finally the icing call that led to the face-off and subsequent goal by Whitney. Speaking of face-offs, Phoenix was off the charts, especially Hanzal. Legwand went an atrocious 1 for 10 and Fisher didn’t hold serve much either.
The Keys for Nashville: Play like they did in the third period and overtime. It was total domination, so much so that even Mike Milbury said Phoenix was “lucky” to get out of that game with a win. 25 SOG to 7 SOG in the third and overtime…any other game, that is a win for sure but Mike Smith had other plans. The Predators were able to get three by him (two since the first goal was pretty fluky) and the Predators had all the momentum and pressure for the remainder of the game.
Traffic is the key for Nashville to take full advantage of Smith. He doesn’t give up a ton of rebounds, but when he does it’s a scramble and usually that can be taken advantage of (ask Martin Erat and Andrei Kostitsyn). Nashville needs to have someone screening Smith since he’s going to stop everything he can see. Hornqvist almost scored on the Kostitsyn tally and Bourque and Bouillon had point-blank chances that were robbed by Smith. A heavy net presence will put more pressure on Smith and a few garbage goals would go a long way to even up this series.
There is also a rumor that Colin Wilson may be added into the mix, but who would he replace? Bourque has been solid and Yip had a remarkably sound game last night and even had the opening goal for the Predators. Some have suggested Legwand take a break, but when he has a bad game he usually follows that up with a huge performance. It’ll be interesting to see how Trotz might insert Wilson into the lineup. Wilson’s size and hands could be a huge boost for the 3rd/4th lines and bring an offensive spark to an already potent lineup.
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