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Predators play possible spoiler to Coyotes, collect 2-0 shutout victory


Apr 10, 2014


Going from seeing your season on life support to having the plug pulled over the course of 48 hours can produce a very polarizing effect on a hockey team. The Nashville Predators were eliminated from their chance at the Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday night with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars. Over the course of the first twenty minutes against tonight’s opponents, the Phoenix Coyotes, it seemed more like the season was over instead of their being two more games left this weekend. Yet, with a chance to play spoiler to Phoenix’s playoff chances, Nashville found a way.

Scoring a powerplay goal in the second and an even-strength marker in the third, the Predators walked out of “Fan Appreciation Night” in Bridgestone Arena with a 2-0 win, putting the Coyotes in a tough position to make the playoffs and giving Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne his franchise-record 162nd career victory with the Predators.

“It’s obviously still nice to win. Especially at home in front of our fans. It’s still what we want to do. Our focus is still winning, we’re still playing for each other in here. The guys have a lot of respect for each other and we’re going to keep playing until the end,” said Predators forward Nick Spaling. “It’s nice to be able to still have an impact. It gives you something else to play for, keeps the guys up, keeps us going, and keeps us working.”

After a scoreless and lackluster first period, Nashville would finally get on the board midway through the second. On the tail-end of their second powerplay of the game, Craig Smith found a seam and wired a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder of Coyotes goaltender Thomas Greiss. Smith’s goal, his 21st of the season tying him for the team lead with Shea Weber, was his first goal since March 11th, which would end a 13-game drought for him.

“I just rolled up the wall and we had talked about trying to roll up the D an cut to the middle to open up a little more space, and just try to push it outside his body and get a quick shot,” said Predators forward Craig Smith. “It went off of one of their defensemen, I think, so it was nice to get a goal. Our group has had its chances so it’s nice to get one.”

The Predators would extend their lead midway through the third period after a beautiful centering pass from Mike Fisher found a streaking Patric Hornqvist who collected the rebound off his initial shot and put it past Greiss for a 2-0 lead. Hornqvist’s goal was also his 21st of the season, including his seventh goal in his past six games.

Nashville would hold on and secure Pekka Rinne’s 32nd career shutout with a 29-save 2-0 victory.

“It’s awesome. He’s such a great guy and such a hard competitor and for him it was probably the worst to be out for that long. He’s been great since he’s been back and we’re really happy for him that he got a shutout tonight,” said Predators defenseman Roman Josi.

Del Zotto scratched again?

Michael Del Zotto was once again scratched prior to tonight’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes. His third scratch in the past four games, Trotz was asked about it following Nashville’s 2-0 win against the Coyotes.

“The group has been playing real well. [Del Zotto] has been good too. I spoke to him this morning, we have seven defenseman that are playing real well. You sometimes don’t want to break the mold a little bit, but at the same time you have to separate yourself a little bit too. You need a couple powerplay guys, a couple penalty killers, [Phoenix] had some weight with Shane Doan and Moss, you have a young guy like [Seth Jones] who is coming back and will probably have a long career here in Nashville. You just have to manage that. Unfortunately, [Del Zotto] is a little bit the guy out, but he’s not playing poorly. It’s more of a coaches choice. We have two games left, I’m sure I’ll get him in.”

Spaling’s future with the team?

Having his best season with the Predators, forward Nick Spaling could be playing his last games in Nashville. Drafted 58th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Spaling was mum on the topic of his contract status after tonght’s game.

“Of course, I love it here. It’s a great city, great town, a great franchise. I’ve had nothing but a good experience here,” said Spaling. “I’m just focusing on those two games. There’s a lot of time to worry about that kind of thing. Right now, it’s just finish up the season and we want to play hard and only two games left.”