By Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent
GLENDALE -- Far from the typical Nashville-Phoenix slugfest, Monday night's game at Jobing.com Arena was more like a track meet – with the teams equally splitting eight goals, 70 shots and plenty of odd-man scoring chances.
But in the end, the Coyotes (34-25-11) couldn't come up with the big goal they needed and Predators goalie Pekka Rinne came up with the big saves late. Nashville's Andrei Kostitsyn had the only successful shootout attempt as the Predators survived blowing three leads – including a two-goal cushion in the third period – to hold on for a 5-4 win at Jobing.com Arena.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith also made 31 saves in regulation and overtime in a tough loss for Phoenix, which remains in seventh place but saw both Colorado and San Jose gain a point with victories. The Coyotes now head out on a challenging four-game trip beginning Wednesday night in Vancouver (followed by stops in Calgary, Edmonton and Dallas) with a 1-4-2 record in the last seven games that has them hanging onto a playoff spot by their fingernails.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett noticed large, glaring errors that shouldn't be cropping up 69 games into a season. Players not staying between their man and the goal. Poor passes. No coverage for teammates jumping up in plays.
"We had to rally (three times) because we were making poor mistakes," Tippett said. "We've got to get these mistakes taken care of. They can't happen this time of year and they're mistakes by veteran players, which is even more frustrating.
He added, "I give our guys full credit for coming back, digging in and finding a way to get a point. But we have to play tight hockey and not give away chances like we did tonight."
Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon broke an 87-game scoring drought and Craig Smith -- a healthy scratch the last two games -- snapped a 2-2 tie with goals over a 4:10 span of the second and third periods to give Nashville a 4-2 lead. But the Coyotes stormed back on goals by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Raffi Torres -- his 13th of the season and third in three games -- to pull even and salvage a point in the standings.
Martin Erat and Mike Fisher also scored for Nashville, while Daymond Langkow and Keith Yandle scored second-period goals for the Coyotes. The road team won each of the last five meetings in this series that ended with two wins aside this year.
Nashville, now 29-3-3 when scoring first this season, broke a scoreless tie late in the opening period – just after Torres pinged a shot off the goal post with Rinne down and out. Erat used a Sergei Kostitsyn drop pass and screen for a shot that Smith got a chunk of, but couldn't stop with 28.1 seconds left. It was the 17th goal for Erat, who added two assists to give him a team-best 53 points.
The Coyotes have now been outscored 11-1 in the first period of their last seven games.
Phoenix needed less than a minute of the second period to get even. Ekman-Larsson held in a Torres pass at the point, spun off the boards and let go a wrist shot that Langkow re-directed past Rinne at the 49-second mark. Langkow's ninth goal was just his second in the last 23 games.
Phoenix had a chance to go in front, but wound up behind seconds later. Yandle broke in alone but was stoned by an acrobatic pad save by Rinne, sending Nashville the other way. Sergei Kostitsyn skated in and was stopped by the glove of a sprawling Smith, but he ran down the rebound and found Fisher with a centering pass at the near post for the tip-in at 11:04.
Photo by Norm Hall.
Yandle got a shot at redemption. On the rush, Antoine Vermette set up him with a drop pass and he faked an initial shot before cruising between the circles and picking the far top corner at 14:23 for his 10th goal and second in the last three games.
But the Coyotes were again bitten by a late-period goal – this one 4-on-4, but from an unlikely source. With Sergei Kostitsyn and Whitney in the box for separate offenses, Bouillon put a shot on net and skated in untouched to chop the rebound over Smith at 18:26. Bouillon's last goal came 87 games ago, on Nov. 3, 2010 – also against the Coyotes.
Nashville (41-21-7) took its only two-goal lead of the game 2:36 into the third when Smith snuck behind Phoenix defenseman Michael Stone, took a long pass from Paul Gaustad and broke in alone. He deked Smith with the forehand before dumping in a backhander for his 13th goal – but just his second in the last 17 games.
But Phoenix came back once more. Another Ekman-Larsson shot through traffic weaved its way past the screened out Rinne with 12:49 left in regulation. And with 4:59 left, in a wild scramble in the Nashville crease, Torres nudged the puck just across the goal line to pull Phoenix even for a third time.
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Predators forward Andrei Kostitsyn, shooting first for Nashville in the shootout, beat Coyotes goalie Mike Smith with a shot between the legs. It was the only goal scored by either team in the skills competition.
"I try to do my best move to score in practice and then try the same thing in the shootout," Kostitsyn said. "We don't play many games against Phoenix so I don't know the goalie. I try to do many different moves in practice, and (Monday night), I did the wrist shot and scored."
► Click here to see the KEY MOMENT.
• Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson played a team-high 26:01, notched a goal and an assist, blocked two shots, took two shots and delivered two hits. It was Ekman-Larsson's fifth multi-point game of the season and his first since Jan. 7.
• Center Daymond Langkow notched a goal and an assist for his third multi-point game of the season and his first since Nov. 29. Forward Raffi Torres notched a goal and an assist for his second multi-point game of the season and his first since Dec. 26.
• The Coyotes lost to Nashville twice at home for the first time since the 2003-04 season
• The Coyotes played minus injured forwards Martin Hanzal (upper-body) and Kyle Chipchura (upper-body), and injured defenseman David Schlemko (lower-body). All three are expected to travel with the team on its four-game trip - which begins with a flight to Vancouver on Tuesday.
• The Coyotes' next game is Wednesday vs. the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona Plus and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"We chased the game all night, (and) that's tough. We showed some resilience as a group. We had some big goals late in the third (period) to make it close and then tie it up. It's a big point but obviously no one is happy."
"We don't quit, we don't give up and I think we could have been better. We probably could have won that game. The little mistakes here and there cost us."
"The most important thing was the win. Everyone played well today; it was not an easy game. (It was) a really hard opponent today, but we came out with the two points."