Thursday, May 3, 2012

Preds play well with lead in 2-0 win

The Nashville Predators defeated the Phoenix Coyotes by a 2-0 score in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night to cut the Coyotes' series lead in half.

In the first two games of the series, the Predators never held a lead. However, the Predators were able to get out to a fast start on Wednesday night. David Legwand gave the Predators a 1-0 lead on a bit of a weird play. Mike Smith went to play the puck and backhanded it behind his net. Gabriel Bourque was there and made a quick pass to Legwand who was able to put it in an essentially wide open net.

Mike Fisher gave the Predators a 2-0 lead just 1:06 later. Martin Erat made the original steal in the offensive zone and fired a quick pass to Sergei Kostitsyn in the slot. Kostitsyn made a pass over to Fisher who immediately attempted a pass back toward Kostisyn. However, Fisher's pass went off of Smith's stick and into the net to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

That would be the last of the scoring throughout the game. Later on in the first period, it appeared that Legwand had given the Predators a 3-0 lead, but the goal was immediately waved off by the official. However, that didn't phase the Predators. They played a solid game with the lead, and were able to hold on for the victory.

"All season long we've played great with the lead but we are no different if we are behind. We just have to play for 60 minutes. In Phoenix, we played five minutes and then took five minutes off, and you can't play like that in the playoffs," said Predators forward Martin Erat.

Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots that he faced on Wednesday night to record his first shutout of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He came up big on a 5-on-3 power play by Phoenix in the third period, making a series of sensational saves on Radim Vrbata.

"He had a wide open one. I think (Rinne) throws his leg up while laying on his stomach. Vrbata got 35 (goals) this year and that's one that has gone in a lot of times. Tonight, it didn't go in," said Phoenix Head Coach Dave Tippett.

Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo were reinserted into the lineup on Wednesday night following the suspension of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating team rules. Halischuk and Tootoo were strong for the Predators in Game 3, as was Colin Wilson who played in his second game of the postseason. That gives Barry Trotz options for Game 4.

"Obviously, it's just a few minutes after the game and I can't give you many answers, but it's very hard to change it if everybody is committed like they were. It was a statement. I think it's a privilege to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to play for the Cup, and those guys took advantage of the privilege of playing. I think that's the sacred part of the playoffs. It will be very hard to change a whole lot from that group," Trotz said.

Coming into the game, the Predators wanted to focus on playing a much better defensive game. They were able to accomplish that on Wednesday night. Nashville will turn their attention to Game 4 and try to even the series at two games apiece.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Mike Fisher(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Mike Fisher(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)