Low-scoring Predators ride three-goal period to winBy Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Thu, Feb 14, 2013 11:41 PM EST
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After failing to convert twice while standing a breath from the Phoenix net near the second period's end, Nashville could have let frustration seep into its third-period performance. Instead, the Predators came up with a surprising scoring burst to hand the Coyotes a rare February loss. Gabriel Bourque broke a scoreless tie early in the final period, and Nick Spaling scored just under seven minutes later as the Predators defeated their recent nemesis 3-0 Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. "We felt like we were building something," Bourque said of Nashville's second-period play. "We had fun in the third period." Pekka Rinne kept Phoenix from having any fun. The Nashville goalie continued his excellent early-season play, rejecting 19 shots for his second straight shutout and his third of the season. The Predators (7-3-4) moved into a tie for third in the Western Conference with Vancouver. The Coyotes (6-6-2) fell for just the second time in 19 February games, dating to last season, when they went 11-0-1 on their way to the Pacific Division title and a berth in the conference finals. "It was a tight game, and I thought the first team to score would have a big advantage, and they ended up with it," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Our setups are good, but we're not paying the price to score, and you have to do that." Phoenix was 8-3-2 in its past 13 matchups against Nashville, and the Coyotes eliminated the Predators from the playoffs last year in five games, largely behind the brilliant work of goalkeeper Mike Smith. Smith was outstanding for two periods Thursday, stopping all 20 shots he faced, including 14 in the second period. He stoned Bourque and Mike Fisher on point-blank chances in the final minute of the middle period, extending Nashville's recent stretch of offensive futility to one goal in 12 periods. However, Predators coach Barry Trotz felt his team's persistent push into the offensive zone was bound to pay off. "From start to finish, I thought this was the most determined that we've been to get to the blue paint and finish," he said. "I didn't sense any frustration when we missed those two chances. I thought we played a great second period, and it set us up for the third." Nashville finally cashed in at 2:40 of the third with Phoenix's Mikkel Boedker off for hooking. Bourque deflected Martin Erat's shot from the left side just inside the right post for his third goal of the year. Bourque said it was his first power-play action of the year. "I just went to the net and stayed there," he said. "The puck hit off my skate and trickled in there." Spaling tacked on insurance at 9:38, wristing Matt Halischuk's pass over Smith's glove hand for his third of the season. Mike Fisher added his second goal of the year at 18:16, a wrist shot from almost the same spot as Spaling's at the right faceoff circle. "It was nice to get a lead and build on it," Fisher said. "We finally got Peks some run support." Nashville, which came into the night averaging a league-low 1.9 goals per game, outshot the Coyotes 29-19 in the game and 23-12 in the final two periods. It was just the fifth time in 14 matches that the Predators scored more than two goals. "It was a tight game, and we thought we were in a good spot there," Phoenix center Antoine Vermette said. "I thought we had great scoring chances, but we had a couple of weird bounces. It's part of the game." NOTES: Erat played in his 700th game with the team, making him the second man in franchise history to reach that milestone. The first was center David Legwand, who has spent his entire 13-year career with the Predators. ... Phoenix left winger Steve Sullivan was honored by the Predators with a video tribute during a TV timeout in the first period. Sullivan played six years in Nashville, scoring 100 goals in 317 games. ... Tippett has 412 wins since the 2002-03 season, second only to Detroit's Mike Babcock. Trotz is fourth on that list with 387. ... Vermette played his 277th straight game, the league's seventh-longest active streak. Teammate Keith Yandle is right behind at 269 ... Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris left in the first period with what was described as an upper-body injury and didn't return. His status for Saturday night's home game with Columbus isn't known.
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