In truth, we probably should have seen this coming.
The Phoenix Coyotes took a 1-0 series lead over the
Nashville Predators by winning 4-3. In overtime. After
surrendering a third-period lead.
It’s hockey, the Coyotes’ way.
“We do everything the hard way,” game-winning goal scorer
Ray Whitney joked after the game. “There’s certainly
nothing easy about what we’re doing right now.”
No, but somehow it’s effective, and it has the Coyotes, in
the Western Conference semifinals for the first time, one
game closer to the next round.
Of course, you wouldn’t know it from the post-game scene,
as there seemed to be more relief than excitement in the
Coyotes’ locker room. But that’s kind of what happens
after you win a game that, quite frankly, you probably
didn’t deserve to win.
The Coyotes were outshot by the Predators 42-24 on the
night – including 16-1 in the third period – and once
again struggled to keep the puck out of their own zone.
However, Mike Smith was his usual stellar self Friday
night, and he got just enough offense from Whitney, Radim
Vrbata, Rusty Klesla and Mikkel Boedker to come away with
the big win.
“It’s important to start off a series with a big win,”
Smith said. “More importantly, to win at home, so
obviously it’s a big, big win for our team and we need to
keep pushing forward and keep improving every game.”
The Coyotes will have to improve if they are to win this
series, because the Predators are not going to go away
quietly. They didn’t Friday, and they won’t in the future.
“We’re fortunate to get the first one under our belt, but
if we expect to have a chance to win this series we’re
going to have to be far better than that,” Coyotes coach
Dave Tippett said.
After all, they cannot expect Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka
Rinne to struggle like he did in the series opener. With
most expecting goals to be scarce, Friday seemed like a
bit of an offensive explosion.
“With these two goalies, that is probably higher than
anyone would expect, but who knows, those might be the
only goals we see the rest of the series,” Whitney said.
“Kind of an unusual game in that aspect.”
It wasn’t pretty, easy or, really, deserved. But the
Coyotes will take it.
“Obviously we would like not to get out-played, but that’s
the way it’s gone [Friday] and hopefully we can clean that
up a little bit,” Mikkel Boedker said. “But we got out on
top so it’s nothing to be mad about.
“There’s areas we can clean up and be better in, but we