By Corey Masisak | NHL.com
NASHVILLE – Coyotes captain Shane Doan scored in the first period and goaltender Mike Smith made 25 saves to key a 1-0 victory over Nashville on Friday night in Game 4 of this Western Conference Semifinals series at Bridgestone Arena.
The victory gives Phoenix a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The Coyotes can advance to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history by winning Game 5 at home on Monday night.
Phoenix didn't make a lot of great plays -- but unlike Game 3, it made few mistakes.
"We talked about how they were going to push hard tonight and we had to be better," Doan said. "We were better for the most part. There were a couple times where they pushed back, but we were better overall. We were OK last game, but OK doesn't win in the playoffs and we knew had to find a way to win."
The Predators, playing for a second game without forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn (this time as healthy scratches), will rue this loss as a missed opportunity because of all the fantastic chances they had against Smith on which the goalie didn't even have to make a save -- especially during a dominant second period.
"They're such a good team -- their style, their defensive style, just like us," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter said. "Their goalie was phenomenal tonight. It was definitely the toughest game to get anything going."
Phoenix took the lead on Doan's goal (see KEY MOMENT below) during the first period. It was Doan's third goal of this postseason, and it came with a quartet of Predators defenders in his vicinity -- but no one in particular marking him.
One game after affording the Predators a two-goal lead with a mistake-filled flurry in the first period, the Coyotes were much better in the opening 20 minutes Friday night. They held Nashville to just two shots in the first 17:47 of the period and withstood a pair of power-play chances with little stress on Smith.
Nashville controlled play in the second period, desperately pushing for an equalizer, but the Predators couldn't finish a handful of glorious chances. The Predators won 14 of 18 faceoffs in the period and used the extra possession time to create 24 shot attempts -- twice as many as they had in the opening period.
Patric Hornqvist had three of the best chances, but didn't get any of them on net. He hit the post from the left wing, then chunked a shot over the crossbar from the slot after Smith had played the puck to him and gone down to the ice. Later he pushed a tap-in wide of the right post after a pretty pass from David Legwand. He had five of the team's 10 missed shots in the period.
Phoenix struggled to hold leads against the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of this postseason, but the Coyotes clamped down on the Predators in the final 20 minutes. Nashville had 10 shots on net, but few dangerous chances to score despite a full period of desperation.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Nashville had another powerless night with the man advantage, going scoreless on three chances. The Predators have not scored a power-play goal in 23 tries at Bridgestone Arena in the 2012 playoffs.
Phoenix led Chicago 3-1 in the first round, but was unable to finish off the Blackhawks at Jobing.com Arena in Game 5. They will have a second chance Monday night.
"Just keep flying under the radar," Smith said about being one win from the conference finals. "That's a nice way to go about it. We've just got to stick with what we're doing, not get too far ahead of ourselves and worry about getting the next one."
Colin Wilson, who was a healthy scratch at the start of this postseason, had a strong effort for the Predators and earned a promotion to the top line in the second half of the third period, but even giving his most dangerous forward to that point more ice time didn't help Head Coach Barry Trotz's club solve Smith.
"Plain and simple is, we've got to win a hockey game," Trotz said. "That focus can't go any further than that. We're going to have to win a hockey game and it is going to have to be in Phoenix."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne turned aside a couple of great scoring chances for Phoenix early in the first period, but Coyotes captain Shane Doan
knocked Hal Gill off the puck along the right wall, collected a pass from Mikkel Boedker
and skated into the slot before backhanding a shot off Nashville defenseman Roman Josi's stick and into the net at 14:25.
► Click here
to see the KEY MOMENT
|Photo by Getty Images
• The Coyotes killed all three of Nashville's power plays. Phoenix is 16 for 16 on penalty kills on the road in the 2012 playoffs.
• The Coyotes have allowed the second-fewest goals on the road (six) among active playoff teams.
• Prior to Friday, the Coyotes/Jets franchise had never won a game played in the month of May. The club's record is 1-4 in May.
• Before the Coyotes blanked the Predators in Game 4, the team's last shutout in the playoffs occurred in Game 4 of the quarterfinal series vs. Anaheim in 1997. Nikolai Khabibulin was Phoenix's winning goalie.
• What follows is the official ruling from the NHL on the no-goal call against Nashville in the third period: "At 12:48 of the third period video review was initiated by the Situation Room in Toronto because the puck crossed the goal line. The referee determined that the whistle had blown and the play was dead before the puck crossed the goal line. No goal.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette
, Alex Bolduc, Louis Domingue
, Maxim Goncharov
, Brett Hextall
, Lauri Korpikoski
, Andy Miele
, Connor Murphy
, Justin Pogge, Brett MacLean
, David Schlemko
, David Rundblad
, Michael Stone
, Chris Summers
, Jordan Szwarz
, Raffi Torres
, Matt Watkins
and Ethan Werek
• The Coyotes' next game is Game 5 on Monday vs. the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on NBC Sports Network and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).