By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- Scottie Upshall netted a natural hat trick Thursday night to rally the Coyotes to a victory over the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena.
Upshall scored three goals within a span of 10:25 in the third period to transform Phoenix's 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 triumph.
Upshall's heroics enabled the Coyotes (29-17-5) to finish their season-long six-game homestand with a 3-2-1 record.
"We let some points get away (on this homestand) so we wanted to make sure we finished it right," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "...We've got to go on the road now and (play) two real hard games in Washington and Detroit and find a way to get points there."
The hat trick was Upshall's first in the NHL and was the fastest hat trick scored by a Coyotes player since the team moved to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996.
The feat was especially sweet for Upshall because it came against the team that drafted him with the sixth overall pick in 2002, and because it also came against some friends/former teammates.
"It was special," Upshall said. "It's something that I've been looking forward to for a long time. I had a chance to play them last year when they were here but the game didn't mean that much, but this one for both teams was a huge game... It was great to have a game like that against them."
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 41 of 43 shots in his best outing of the month.
Neither team scored in the first period. Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi ended the stalemate when he converted a nice drop pass by Shane Doan into his ninth goal of the season at 2:49 of the second period.
Nashville (29-18-3) changed the momentum by scoring two goals in less than a minute later in the second period. Patric Hornqvist netted his team-high 20th goal at 13:59 by banging the puck off Bryzgalov's right leg from behind the net. Forty seconds later, Martin Erat scored an unassisted goal off a Phoenix giveaway to give Nashville a 2-1 lead.
But Upshall took over in the third period. He scored his first goal with a slap shot from the left circle at 4:02. He scored his second goal by lifting the rebound of his own shot over the right shoulder of Predators goalie Dan Ellis at 13:22. He scored his third goal in dramatic fashion at 14:27 after a receiving a nifty lob pass by Martin Hanzal (see KEY MOMENT below).
"He had a big night against us," Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "He hasn’t had many opportunities to play against us so he was probably geared up for that."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to watch all three of Upshall's goals.
Scottie Upshall's third goal on Thursday night wasn't the decisive goal but it sure was the most memorable. Upshall capped a breakaway by tucking a backhanded shot between the legs of Predators goalie Dan Ellis at 14:27 of the third period. Fans celebrated by launching hats onto the ice. Upshall celebrated by launching himself into teammate Jim Vandermeer, and the two players crashed to the ice.
• The victory was Dave Tippett's 300th as an NHL head coach. Tippett began his NHL head coaching career with the Dallas Stars in 2002-03. Only Detroit Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock has won more games (307) than Tippett during that time. "I'm getting old," joked Tippett, who said he didn't realize he had reached the 300-win milestone. "If you love what you do the time flies by. I like the wins more than the losses, so if it's 300 wins that's 300 good nights I've had."
• Captain Shane Doan had three assists. It was his third three-point game of the season.
• The Coyotes were not awarded a power play in this game.
• Center Vernon Fiddler played 15:04 in his first game against his former team and won 12 of 21 faceoffs. Fiddler played 305 games for Nashville over six seasons before coming to the Coyotes as a free agent last summer.
• Phoenix plays 12 more games before the NHL suspends its schedule for the Winter Olympics. Eight of those games will be played on the road.
• The Coyotes scratched Anders Eriksson and Daniel Winnik, who suffered an upper-body injury vs. Buffalo on Monday. Winnik is listed as day-to-day. Nashville scratched J.P. Dumont (flu) and Alexander Sulzer.
"What a game it was. I thought everyone in here played great. In the third period, when push came to shove, we had to step up... It just feels awesome to get three goals and to have such an impact on the game."
"It's a huge two points. I didn't play well probably for two weeks but I'm satisfied with my game tonight... I thought we all played well."
"Today was very important and we fell short. We've lost two in a row and we have to get back to winning."