By Dave Vest NASHVILLE – Defensemen have been scoring goals for the Coyotes all season. On Tuesday night, a blueliner yet again netted a goal, when it mattered most no less, to key a 1-0 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center.
Adrian Aucoin, who not too long ago won a shootout competition at the end of a Phoenix practice, lifted the Coyotes to their fifth consecutive win by beating Predators goalie Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot in the 10th round of the shootout. Shea Weber’s shot to tie the shootout moments after Aucoin’s goal missed to the left and the Coyotes rushed the ice in celebration.
Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves in 65 minutes, and then allowed just one goal in the shootout – to David Legwand in the third round. He thwarted several of Nashville's shootout participants with poke checks in winning his 30th game of the season. The shutout was the 14th of his NHL career.
Lauri Korpikoski also scored for Phoenix (34-18-5), in the second round of the shootout.
Though it ended in dramatic fashion, the game featured few thrills before the shootout. Only two penalties were called – one per team – and the teams combined for just three shots on those power plays. There were no fights and very few heart-racing scoring chances.
"That was the ultimate mucky road game right there,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “...There wasn't a ton of chances in the game because the ice was probably not ideal and there were lots of bouncing pucks, but we found a way to get two points and that's what counts.“
Solid backchecking by both teams made it a tight game.
"There wasn't a lot of space, so when you moved, you had to fight for inches," Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "It wasn't overly physical in terms of dirty or nasty, but it was a hard game because it was a goal-line stand on both sides. Both teams were pushing back, and we knew one puck would be the difference."
Rinne stopped all 26 shots he faced in 65 minutes for Nashville (30-21-4), which fell nine points behind the Coyotes.
"We keep climbing and putting some distance between teams," Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "I don't know that we're happy, but we're satisfied. As we get to this latter part of the season, the stretch drive, we'd like to gain as many points as we can."
Long before the shootout, the Predators had a two-on-zero rush early in the second period but couldn't convert it into a goal. Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott exchanged passes, but Sullivan's shot hit the left side of the Phoenix net. Coyotes forward Peter Mueller dived into the play to help disrupt Sullivan's timing.
• Phoenix's five consecutive victories tie a season-high. The Coyotes also won five games in a row from Nov. 27 - Dec. 7.
• Forward Lauri Korpikoski is 5 for 8 in shootouts this season. His five shootout goals are tops on the team.
• Tuesday's game was the 200th game of forward Peter Mueller's NHL career.
• Center Vernon Fiddler played 14:26 in his first game at the Sommet Center since coming to the Coyotes as a free agent last summer. Fiddler played 305 games for Nashville over six seasons. The Predators acknowledged Fiddler on the Jumbotron during a break in the action and fans applauded heartily.
• Comedian Tom Green visited the Coyotes dressing room after the game and chatted with some of the players.
• The Coyotes scratched Mikkel Boedker and Anders Eriksson. Nashville scratched Wade Belak.
"A bunch of us were here watching the (WWE) wrestling last night so we knew the ice wasn't going to be great. Realistically, it was probably the worst ice I've ever played on. It was a little disappointing because there were ruts in the ice and you could tell because passes weren't crisp and a lot of guys were falling down. It was definitely an issue."
"Both teams played very tight defensively and didn't want to make a mistake and allow the other team to do something... When we went to the shootout luck was on our side."
"It's definitely disappointing. He (Pekka Rinne) played great and really gave us a chance to win there."