Saturday, April 28, 2012

Faceoff woes plague Predators in Game 1 loss

The Phoenix Coyotes were able to get a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in overtime on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals despite being out-shot by a 42-24 margin. Mike Smith made several key saves for the Coyotes in the third period and in overtime to allow Phoenix to hang around and eventually get the game-winning goal in overtime.

Radim Vrbata got the Coyotes on the board first at 7:23 of the first period on the power play when he rifled a gorgeous wrist shot that beat Pekka Rinne and snuck under the crossbar for a goal. It was an impressive shot by one of the most underrated players in the NHL.

Nashville tied the game at one when Brandon Yip was able to convert on a very strange bounce. The Predators dumped the puck into the zone and Smith went behind the net to play it for Phoenix. All of a sudden, the puck bounced directly out in front of the net on Yip's stick. Smith wasn't actually in the net for the Coyotes at the time and Yip put it into the open net.

In the second period, Rostislav Klesla gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead when he backhanded one past a sprawling Rinne. Klesla made a pass that was blocked by Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and the puck went directly back onto Klesla's stick. Rinne, who had been anticipating the pass, was out of the net on the play.  The Predators would respond, however when Andrei Kostitsyn got a goal from just digging around in front of the net. He was able to get enough on it to sneak it past Smith.

Mikkel Boedker, who was the overtime hero for Phoenix in their first round playoff series against Chicago, gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead when he converted on a 2-on-1 rush by shooting on the blocker side. That goal gave Phoenix a one-goal lead heading into the third period.

After putting together several pushes to try and get the game tied, Martin Erat was finally able to tie the game at three for the Predators at 15:18 of the third period. The game went on to overtime, where Ray Whitney was the hero for the Coytoes. He scored 14:04 into the overtime victory for Phoenix.

Nashville was atrocious with their faceoffs in Game 1. David Legwand went 1-for-10 in the faceoff circle on Friday night, while Mike Fisher went 10-26. That's simply not going to get the job done for the Predators. One of the reasons that Paul Gaustad was brought in by Nashville at the trading deadline was for his facecoff ability. He was a stellar 9-for-13 in the faceoff circle in Game 1. Overall, however, the Predators won just 41 percent of their faceoffs.

The Predators will try to regroup from this game and take down the Coyotes on Sunday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Ray Whitney(PHX)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Mike Smith(PHX)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ray Whitney(PHX)
2. Rostislav Klesla(PHX)
3. Mikkel Boedker(PHX)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)