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Coyotes 2, Predators 1

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes keep building momentum -- on the ice and off the ice Monday.

Hours after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman held a press conference to provide a promising update on the sale of the club to former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison, the Coyotes reached uncharted territory with a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena.

With the win, Phoenix clinched the series, 4-1, to advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Coyotes will face the Los Angeles Kings. The dates have not yet been set.

Phoenix had never won a playoff series in 14 previous seasons in the Valley of the Sun. Now they have won two and goalie Mike Smith is the biggest reason.

For the fourth time in five games of this series, Smith outdueled Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne, stopping 32 Nashville shots. Smith wasn't one of three finalists for the Vezina but he is quickly building a reputation in the postseason.

He entered the game third in the playoffs in save percentage at .946, but that number will rise after Monday's stellar performance. Smith robbed Andrei Kostitsyn point blank and flashed his glove to steal a high shot from Gabriel Bourque in the second period.

Nashville finally broke Smith's shutout streak at 168 minutes, 45 seconds when Colin Wilson scored 14:01 into the third period, but the Predators couldn't crack him again, managing just three goals over the final three games of the series.

Smith almost capped the night with a rare milestone. With Rinne pulled for an extra attacker late, Smith made a bid for the empty net with a long clearing pass and missed wide right by inches.

Nashville outshot the Coyotes 22-12 through the first two periods, but the second period was a microcosm of this series, with Nashville sustaining flurries around the net but rarely getting good chances through Coyotes sticks and bodies.

Defenseman Derek Morris put Phoenix on the board first, rifling a shot from the point through Rinne's legs to stake the Coyotes to a 1-0 lead almost four minutes into the second period.

The team that scored first had won each of the previous games in this series.

Phoenix widened its lead after the Predators failed in another flurry around Smith. Phoenix center Daymond Langkow made a safe play to chip the puck out of the zone off the boards. Forward Kyle Chipchura corralled the pass and skated to the far boards of the Nashville zone, waiting for a trailer.

Coyotes center Martin Hanzal beat his man into the zone, took a feed from Chipchura and ripped a 30-foot wrist shot past Rinne at the 15:09 mark to give the Coyotes a2-0 lead at the second intermission.

Three of Nashville's best chances rang iron in the second period. Shea Weber's slapshot from the point hit the post before Smith stopped Kostitsyn on a rebound chance.

The Predators then hit back-to-back posts before Alex Radulov found Smith down on the ground with an open side of the net. True to form for this game, Phoenix forward Mikkel Boedker slid in front of Radulov's wrist shot to keep Nashville off the board.

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