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Coyotes take series lead with Game 3 win over Predators

Taylor Hall #91 of the Arizona Coyotes is congratulated by teammates Clayton Keller #9,Phil Kessel #81 and Christian Dvorak #18 of the Arizona Coyotes after Hall scored a goal in the third period against the Nashville Predators in Game Three of the Western Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 05, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

The Arizona Coyotes are back to having the series lead once again with a nailbiter win over the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of the series on Wednesday.

The Coyotes were trailing shots on goal 8-0 in the first period and were struggling to get out of their own zone. But seemingly defying logic, Arizona quickly got the game’s first goal with a Christian Dvorak deflection on their first shot of the game.

Conor Garland’s highlight-reel goal in the third period put the Coyotes up 2-1, the deciding goal in the game. A Taylor Hall goal on the power play and an empty-net goal from Carl Soderberg let Arizona go on to win 4-1.

“We were pretty calm after the first,” Garland said. “I think they probably outplayed us during the first, but I think it obviously helps with you have [goalie Darcy Kuemper] in there. And such a big goal by Dvo. When you leave the first after playing like that, we felt pretty confident in our game and we just got our legs in the second and took over.”

Kuemper had 19 saves in the first period alone. He started on Wednesday for the second day in a row, going in the second half of a back-to-back. He made 39 saves as the Coyotes were out-shot 40-28. Juuse Saros started again for Nashville and made 24 saves.

“Kuemps has been like that for two years. Nothing phases him. He’s a goalie that, just throughout the years that I played, you always had those goalies everybody wants to play for because he’s such a great guy, never blames his teammates. Those are the guys that [you] want to block shots for and play for. Kuemps is that type of guy.

“Terrific performance from Kuemps.”

Viktor Arvidsson’s second-period goal for Nashville was the equalizer at the time, and the Predators thought they had a 2-1 lead on a Kyle Turris tally but the goal was overturned. Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet successfully challenged for offside.

That kept it 1-1 and set up the Garland goal to take the lead.

“Honestly, I had no idea it was offside. I think we’re all kind of thinking, ‘We’ve got to get that next one, we have a lot of time to score a goal and just get back to our game.’ But that’s playoffs. Sometimes you get bounces, sometimes you don’t. Whether that offside had anything to do with the goal, I’m not sure. But you take breaks that are given to you and you make the best of it, and that’s kind of what we did.”

It was a crucial victory for Arizona, which struggled to get shots and passes through in Game 2 on Tuesday and did their best to counter that problem in Game 3. The start in the first period wasn’t promising, but the Coyotes hung in until the three third period goals put the game away.

“They’re very tough. They blocked a ton of shots last game,” Tocchet said. “We had a couple things we wanted our team to do even last game, and I didn’t think we executed well in what we wanted to do. I mean obviously when you win 4-1, everyboy says, ‘Oh, you executed and you did the right thing.’ We still, there’s some stuff we’ve got to do against the way they play defense. And I think if we just stick with it, we have a better chance of succeeding.”

The Coyotes’ next game is on Friday. A win for Arizona in that game would clinch the series victory and send Arizona to the 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I think we all understood the importance of [this game],” Hall said. “To go up 2-1 in a series, it’s the same as going up 3-2 in a best-of-seven. We wanted last game just as much as today. Obviously next game’s going to be huge. We know they’re going to come out with the season on the line, and we’re going to have to be ready for that. It’s great to go up 2-1 and we’ll enjoy it for a couple hours, but realize that we have an even bigger opportunity in front of us next game.”

QUICK HITS

— Nick Schmaltz missed his third consecutive game since taking a high hit from Vegas forward Ryan Reaves in an exhibition game last Thursday. He has yet to appear in a postseason game for Arizona.

— Tocchet changed some of the line combinations on Wednesday, replacing Barrett Hayton with Vinnie Hinostroza and shuffling much of the arrangement of the lineup.

— The NHL announced Wednesday that Friday’s game will be at 11:30 a.m. Arizona time and broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona.

— Dvorak now has two goals in the series. His goal Wednesday was a deflection in on a shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson. Hall was credited with an assist, too, and he now has four points in the series.

— Phil Kessel, Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller all have three points in the series.

— This happened:


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