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Arizona Coyotes jump out to early lead against Predators

Clayton Keller #9 of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates his power-play goal at 15:42 of the first period against the Nashville Predators in Game One of the Western Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 02, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

A bizarre bounce of the puck may have been a good omen.

A shot from Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a bounce off of Nashville forward Kyle Turris and then another big, blooper bounce off of Matt Duchene. The puck floated over the head of goalie Juuse Saros and into the net. 1-0 Arizona.

The Coyotes’ huge first period didn’t stop there in Game 1 of a best-of-five postseason series in the Edmonton bubble.

In Arizona’s return to hockey after a lengthy hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team found itself in its first postseason series since 2012. After a period of play, the Coyotes led 3-1.

Goals from Ekman-Larsson, forward Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller all gave the Coyotes a 3-0 lead before Nashville got a goal back on a 4-on-3 power play. Filip Forsberg’s shot went off the leg of Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Arizona’s Achilles heel has been scoring goals. The Coyotes have been underwhelming in the offensive side of the game, even despite acquiring stars Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel in the past year, but Arizona’s defensive prowess and goaltending depth have kept it afloat. On Sunday, the offensive spark gave the Coyotes early optimism in a critical Game 1.

Hall, Kessel, Dvorak and Derek Stepan all had assists in the first period.

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