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Coyotes expect to see renewed Nashville team in Game 2

Nashville Predators' Ryan Johansen (92) is stopped by Arizona Coyotes' goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) during first-period NHL hockey Stanley Cup qualifying round game action in Edmonton, Alberta, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Arizona Coyotes beat Sunday’s version of the Nashville Predators. What will they get from Tuesday’s iteration of that squad?

“I think both teams will really change,” Coyotes forward Derek Stepan said. “I think that’s what’s great about the playoffs is you play the same team night in and night out but it seems like they evolve into different mindsets. It could be Xs and Os, it could be mindsets. But I think we just have to prepare and get ourselves ready to clean up the things we want to clean up and be a different team, as well. I think that’s what makes the playoffs so great is you’re playing the same team, but a lot of times you’re seeing a different team.”

A scoring outburst in Game 1 made it 4-1 Coyotes by the end of the second period on Sunday. There’s absolutely zero guarantee that will happen again in Game 2.

The Coyotes got the result they wanted against the Nashville Predators — a win — but what once was a blowout win nearly became a loss as the Preds made it 4-3 in the third period. That may be a reminder that in Game 2 on Tuesday, the 11th-seeded Coyotes will have to keep up a hard fight for 60 minutes to fend off the 6th-seeded Predators.

“I think as an athlete or a player, you get humbled sometimes and it’s a good thing,” Tocchet said. “You think everything’s great and things go a little sideways, it’s how you handle it. To me, it’s a teachable moment. You always learn from your moments. … Can we learn from handling a lead and making sure that we attack? These are teachable moments. And experience and things like that will help through these things.”

What is Nashville looking to do differently?

“Penalty discipline, I’d say would be first and foremost,” Predators coach John Hynes said Monday. “I think you take the penalties out, five-on-five was a pretty even game. I thought we played pretty well in that situation. We were coming from behind, which is not ideal.

“I think we’ve got to sure a couple things up on the penalty kill that can be better. But I think the big difference in the game last night was really two things: I thought we took some ill-advised penalties and we took them at bad times where we had momentum, we had offensive zone penalties that took us out of the rhythm but there were several penalties — three that [were] really ill-advised.”

Early on Sunday, the Coyotes were able to come out physical and then got some juice from a fluky bounce that made it 1-0 Arizona on an Oliver Ekman-Larsson goal. Nashville may be more prepared for a physical battle, and the odd bounce might not go Arizona’s way this time.

If not for the Coyotes killing off a late penalty and then hanging on to their 4-3 lead for the rest of the third period, the Coyotes could find themselves in a 1-0 series hole. Instead, Arizona is up 1-0 and needs two more wins to advance to the next round.

“It’s about handling prosperity,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “To me, a lot of professionalism, it’s experience, it’s reinforcement. There’s a lot of different factors on how to handle it. But really, playoffs is peaks and valleys, and how do you handle them? To be honest with you, you’ve got to forget about that game. I know you can feel good about yourself, but sometimes when you feel too good about yourself, you get too comfortable.”

The puck drops on Game 2 at 11:30 a.m. Arizona time.


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