GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes had never advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 15 previous seasons in the Valley of the Sun. Maybe that's why fortune just keeps smiling on them this spring.
Martin Hanzal won an offensive-zone faceoff and chipped the puck to a waiting Ray Whitney, who knocked in the game-winner to give the Coyotes a 4-3 overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday at Jobing.com Arena. The victory gave the Coyotes a 1-0 series lead in their Western Conference semifinal despite a decided edge in play for the Predators.
Nashville outshot the Coyotes 16-1 in the third period and 25-7 over the final two periods, but the Predators couldn't crack goalie Mike Smith, who made 39 saves.
"When I look at it we probably had about 30 chances," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They collapse really well. There's five guys in Smith's crease so you've got to find lanes.
"He made a couple big saves. We just didn't get that one extra puck that we needed."
Friday's game marked the sixth overtime Phoenix has played in seven 2012 postseason games. Phoenix held one-goal leads on three separate occasions but the Predators, buoyed by three third-period Phoenix penalties, built momentum and kept firing rubber at Smith.
"In the third period and overtime he was under siege," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Smith.
Nashville forward Martin Erat kept Phoenix from winning it in regulation when he flipped home a backhand, power-play goal with four minutes and 42 seconds left in the third period to tie the game at 3-3.
Defenseman Ryan Suter's shot caromed off Nashville's Patric Hornqvist, who was screening Smith, and onto Erat's stick to the left of the goal.
The Coyotes were 33-1 when leading after two periods during the regular season, but they have blown four third-period leads in seven postseason games. Nashville has outscored opponents 8-3 in the third period this postseason.
"They don't get as much credit as they deserve," Smith said. "They have some skilled players both at forward and on defense. We played more time in our end than we'd like, but, once again, the resilient Coyotes found a way to win."
The Coyotes got on the board first on a power play goal from wing Radim Vrbata, his first goal of the postseason. Parked to the left of the crease, Vrbata took a feed from Whitney and found some daylight over the shoulder of 6-foot-5 goalie Pekka Rinne on the short side just seven minutes and 23 seconds into the opening period.
It was the fifth power play goal of the playoffs for a Coyotes unit that ranked 29th out of 30 teams with the man advantage during the regular season.
Phoenix gained momentum from the goal and carried the play until Nashville got a lucky bounce to tie it.
Defenseman Francis Bouillon dumped a puck around the boards that Smith, ever the wanderer, came out to play. The puck took a funny hop off the end boards and bounced right in front of the net. Brandon Yip was there to tap it in and tie the score at 1-1.
Phoenix regained the lead on a lucky bounce of its own 3:05 into the second period. Defenseman Rusty Klesla tried to center the puck but it hit sliding Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and bounced right back to Klesla, who slid it in the open side.
Nashville evened things again at 2-2 when Bouillon's wide shot bounced back in front of the net, allowing Andrei Kostitsyn to knock home a rebound of Hornqvist's initial shot. Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin had a chance to clear the zone moments earlier, but his weak, backhand attempt was intercepted at the blue line, allowing the Predators to maintain possession in the offensive zone.
Forward Mikkel Boedker gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead with three minutes and 33 seconds left in the second period on an odd-man rush when he beat Rinne with a wrist shot off the inside of the far post for his third goal of the postseason.
"I think we kind of made it hard on ourselves. We did some things that are uncharacteristic, that are a little out of sync," said Nashville defenseman Hal Gill, who was playing his first postseason game this year after missing the Detroit series with an injury. "We showed the way we can play at the end of the game. We did a lot of good things that we can build on."