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Too little, too late as Coyotes drop Game 2 to even series vs. Preds

Nashville Predators' Nick Bonino (13), Mattias Ekholm (14) and Dante Fabbro (57) celebrate a goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period of NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators are even in the series, 1-1, after the Preds took Game 2 by a score of 4-2 on Tuesday.

Arizona went up 4-1 in the first two periods of the series but has since been outscored 6-2 in four periods of hockey.

The Coyotes were playing behind for nearly the whole game on Tuesday, giving up the opening goal 7:50 into the contest. Just 2:37 later, it was already 2-0, and the Predators got a goal in each of the next two periods. Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen, Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson (power play) were the goal-scorers, in that order.

Arizona threatened late, when in the final minute of the game, Clayton Keller (second of the series) and Lawson Crouse scored just 10 seconds apart from one another to make it 4-2. But it was too late.

“I really liked our first [period],” Tocchet said. “I think they had [five] shots,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “A couple of seeing-eye shots, just lucky bounce goals. I thought Nashville in the second blocked a ton of shots, they came to play, then we adjusted, finally. We adjusted on some of the stuff in the third, that kind of helped us, but I think we were getting frustrated getting our shots blocked instead of doing a couple offensive concepts we were talking about it. So I saw some guys getting frustrated because they were blocking a lot of shots.”

Goaltender Darcy Kuemper played the entire game. Backup Antti Raanta is “unfit to play” and the Coyotes have the second half of a back-to-back on Wednesday. The team announced Raanta’s status midgame, and goalie Adin Hill was seen taking his place on the bench in the second period. Raanta will be unavailable on Wednesday, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

Kuemper made 24 saves as the Coyotes were outshot 28-26. Juuse Saros started again for Nashville, also making 24 saves. Veteran Pekka Rinne has been the backup in this series, but the back-to-back on Wednesday may prompt Nashville coach John Hynes to make a change.

Arizona has been a strong team from a defense and goaltending standpoint, while offense has tended to be the Achilles heel. The Coyotes had a strong offensive performance on Sunday in Game 1, but didn’t generate much against Nashville on Tuesday. That will have to change on Wednesday against a Predators team that did a good job of killing Coyotes power plays and getting sticks in passing lanes.

The Coyotes won only 34% of faceoffs on Tuesday. The Arizona power play was 0-for-3. Nashville’s was 1-for-4.

Arizona continued to be physical, a welcome trend especially coming from skilled forwards like Keller and Taylor Hall. Both Keller and Hall delivered big hits early in the game, and Hall’s upset recipient Ryan Ellis to the point that the two dropped the gloves. Each were given penalties for roughing.

“I think coach said after the game, playoffs, you’ve got to have a short memory whether you win or lose,” Keller said. “So I think that’s going to be important, and I think it was a lot closer than a 4-2 game, and I think if we play like we did at the end of the game there, we’ll get good results.”

In this best-of-five series that’s now even, either team could advance with two wins in the next three games.

“Things change so much,” Tocchet said. “You win a game, everyone thinks you’re great, you lose a game, everyone thinks you stink. That’s the way the playoffs are. So it’s the teams that know to be even-keel that usually are successul. So we’ll move by this one here in about two minutes and we’ll get ready for Nashville tomorrow at 12:30 [local time].”

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