NASHVILLE -- Shane Doan has been a Phoenix Coyote since the team moved from Winnipeg following the 1995-96 season. He and the franchise are one step from their first Western Conference final appearance.
Doan's goal late in the first period Friday night stood up as goaltender Mike Smith kicked out all 25 shots he faced in Phoenix's 1-0 defeat of Nashville at Bridgestone Arena.
The third-seeded Coyotes own a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and can wrap it up Monday night at Jobing.com Arena, where they won the first two games.
"This is exciting because they are so good, but by no means is this over," Doan said. "We've got to find a way to win the next one."
Before this season, Phoenix had won just two playoff series in its franchise history -- and none in the desert. Before its first-round knockout of Chicago, its last series triumph was 25 years ago when the then Winnipeg Jets dispatched Calgary in six games.
But the Coyotes, who won the Pacific Division title on the regular season's final night, are on the brink of writing a new chapter to an often lurid history. They are doing it with the brilliance of Smith, who has stopped nearly 95 percent of the shots he has faced during the playoffs, and just enough offense.
"We came in here hoping to get two wins and couldn't do it," Smith said. "But we got a big one tonight for the team. We pressured them to take bad shots and our defense blocked a lot of shots."
For the second straight game, Nashville played without two of its top six forwards, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov. They were suspended for Wednesday's night 2-0 shutout win for a violation of team rules.
Both were eligible to return, but coach Barry Trotz opted to stick with the players who produced the Predators' first win in the series, praising their commitment and attention to detail.
But Phoenix appeared to have the jump right off the bat, squeezing off seven of the game's first nine shots and owning a clear territorial edge. It could have scored less than five minutes into the match, but Mikkel Boedker was stoned at the doorstep by Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
However, Doan put the Coyotes on the board at 14:25. After his hit on Hal Gill shook the puck free, Doan took a pass from Boedker and shoveled a backhand off Rinne's stick and into the net.
"We talked before the game about how they were going to push hard and that we had to be better," Doan said. "We were OK Wednesday night, but OK isn't good enough in the playoffs."
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said, "The start was very good for us. It was a good pushback after Wednesday night. We showed real resiliency."
Nashville appeared to forecheck more aggressively in the second period and earned more offensive zone time but couldn't convert that edge into more shots. Its best opportunity came just before the halfway mark as Patric Hornqvist's deflection off a Mike Fisher pass beat Smith but sailed high.
Unable to solve Phoenix's airtight defense or the rangy Smith, the Predators managed just 15 shots through two periods.
Nashville thought it had managed an equalizer with 7:12 remaining in the game off a wild scrum in front of Smith, but the officials waved off the score -- a ruling that survived review.
"The referee went through our captain (Shea Weber) and said that Hornqvist pushed Smith into the net," Trotz said. "I don't buy that."
Nor was Trotz buying the notion that his team, which is averaging just 2.3 goals in nine playoff games, could have used the presence of Kostitsyn and Radulov.
"I thought we generated lots of chances," he said, "but we couldn't find the back of the net. My rationale is I don't think I have to defend it. You could say what if and maybe they could have made a difference, but we'll never know."
Trotz did say that lineup changes are possible for Game 5, meaning that Kostitsyn and Radulov could return for the first of three win-or-else games staring the Predators in the eye.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes can continue to surprise the experts who thought they would be first-round fodder for explosive Chicago and second-round meat for a Nashville team that eliminated Detroit 4-1 in the first round.
"I hope we keep flying under the radar," Smith said.
NOTES: Rinne's 2-0 shutout of Phoenix in Game 3 Wednesday night was his first in 26 playoff games. It was the franchise's first since Tomas Vokoun blanked Detroit in Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference quarterfinals. ... Nashville C Paul Gaustad entered Friday night's game as the NHL playoff leader in faceoff percentage at 59.7 percent. Gaustad won 15 of 22 draws in Game 3. ... Game 3 represented the first time Phoenix had been blanked in a playoff game since a 3-0 loss in 2010 at Detroit.