The Predators once again scored three goals on Mike Smith. Once again, it was not enough.
Uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns proved costly in the Predators’ 5-3 loss tonight in Phoenix in Game Two. Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata led the way for the Coyotes, each tallying two points, as they took a 2-0 series lead with the win.
The game started very similarly to Game One. The Coyotes carried the play for much of the first 10-15 minutes, scoring 8:32 into the first period when Keith Yandle found a wide open Antoine Vermette backdoor to go ahead 1-0. They continued to put the pressure on the Predators on a subsequent power play chance.
The Predators weathered that storm and had a push of their own to close out the period. Andrei Kostitsyn provided the tying goal with 2:47 left in the first. Kostitsyn scored on a half-breakaway thanks to a strong defensive play by Nick Spaling and a beautiful spin-o-rama pass from Kevin Klein.
However, the Predators’ back end had a meltdown in the second period.
Less than four minutes into the middle frame, Vrbata out-waited Pekka Rinne to bring the goaltender out of his net. Vrbata then found a trailing Martin Hanzal to put the Coyotes up 2-1. Over three minutes later, Vrbata pushed the Coyotes ahead by two when he capitalized on David Legwand’s mistake of literally throwing the puck into the slot with a lot of traffic in the crease.
A power play chance helped the Predators settle down and bring the score back within one, as Patric Hornqvist tipped a point shot from Ryan Suter past Mike Smith. It was Hornqvist’s first goal of the postseason.
Thirty seconds later, another defensive breakdown led to another Coyotes goal. Shane Doan’s shot was stopped by Rinne, but Alexander Radulov and Klein failed to clear the puck. Taylor Pyatt pounced on the rebound to give the Coyotes a 4-2 lead at the 11:50 mark of the second.
The Predators found some life again 53 seconds in the third period when Suter scored on the power play to make it 4-3. They showed some good puck movement and zone time leading up to Suter’s goal. The power play converted on both opportunities tonight.
It didn’t take long for the Coyotes to answer back, though. Derek Morris’ shot from the blue-line was nicely re-directed by Doan in front to put Phoenix ahead by a score of 5-3. The Predators didn’t have much of a push-back after that goal, and the Coyotes went on to win by two to take a two-game series lead.
As the series shifts to Nashville this week, Phoenix holds a 2-0 series lead and is in full command.
This and That:
- Pekka Rinne saw 39 shots tonight. Usually when he sees that many shots he’s able to settle into a groove and play his game. But this was a different 39-shot night. The defense was shoddy and left Rinne out to dry way too many times. Four of the Coyotes’ five goals were a direct result of defensive breakdowns from the Preds. With all of the breakdowns, Rinne was scrambling in his crease and couldn’t play a calm game.
The silver lining is that those mistakes are fixable. However, those mistakes have the Preds in an unfavorable 0-2 hole with the series coming back to Music City.
- One thing is that is easily fixable is splitting up the pairing of Kevin Klein and Roman Josi. They have been on the ice for five of the Coyotes’ eight even-strength goals in this series. Both Klein and Josi have had lapses throughout the two games and are not a reliable pairing right now.
- Before this series the Predators were 42-7-4 when scoring three goals or more. They scored three times in both Games One and Two, but fell short.
- The Coyotes are a much better team with the lead; they have yet to trail at any time in this series thus far. Moreover, in the seven playoff games the Preds have played in, the team that has scored first has won each game.
- Once the Coyotes scored their fourth and fifth goals, the frustration started pouring out from the Preds. Alexander Radulov broke his stick over the crossbar following Pyatt’s goal to put Phoenix up 4-2. Mike Fisher took a bad retaliation penalty to nullify a power play at the end of the second. The Coyotes love to frustrate their opponents by swarming them and taking away scoring chances. They did a good job of that tonight.
- Radulov, David Legwand and Gabriel Bourque were a combined minus-9 tonight.
- Radulov has been ineffective in this series. He had one shot on goal tonight and had a minus-3 rating; for the series he has no points and is a minus-4. The Coyotes aren’t giving him much space to operate, but Radulov is the type of player that is fine in tight space. At times he’s trying too much, and at times he’s too hesitant when he does have some room in the offensive zone.
- The Preds won the special teams battle tonight, going 2-for-2 on the power play and not giving the Coyotes anything in their two chances. The problem for the Preds was the 5-on-5 play. In the first round they outscored the Red Wings 11-4 while at 5-on-5. Tonight alone they were outscored 5-1 by the Coyotes. That goes back to the lackluster defensive effort from the Preds.
- Colin Wilson was a surprise addition to the lineup, subbing in for Craig Smith. Wilson skated 9:04 of ice-time and had one shot. He also set up Paul Gaustad on a 2-on-1 scoring chance, but it didn’t result in a goal.
- Faceoffs were a big focal point between Games One and Two. The Preds won 52% of their draws tonight, an improvement over the 41% on Friday.
- The Preds have been in this situation before. Down 0-2 in 2004 and 2008, they came back to tie the series at home against great Detroit teams. There’s nothing to suggest that can’t happen again this time around; the Preds know they aren’t playing well defensively and that the Coyotes are converting on mistakes. It’s going to be a steep hole to climb out of, having to beat Mike Smith and Coyotes four times in the next five games.
Wednesday’s Game Three is obviously a must-win for the Preds.