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No drama here: Coyotes play complete game in win over Predators

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett appeared to do something he hasn’t done in a
while.

Just days after being as upset as you’ll ever see a coach whose team just
won a playoff game, Tippett joked around, seemingly pleased with what
had transpired on the ice not long before his post-game press conference.

Saying his team just played its best 60 minutes of hockey this postseason,
culminating in a 5-3 victory and 2-0 series lead over the Nashville
Predators, Tippett offered nothing but praise.

“Right through our lineup we really had a concerted push through the
lineup,” he said. “I didn’t think there were any weak links in the lineup.”

The Coyotes got goals from Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Radim
Vrbata, Taylor Pyatt and Shane Doan, as well as 33 saves from a less-than-
sharp Mike Smith.

OK, we’ll give Smith a break. After all, for the first time this postseason the
Coyotes gave him one.

In coming out of the gates strong Sunday the Coyotes managed to quiet
many who felt they would struggle against a Predators team that finished
Game 1 playing exceptionally well. With the rust from their long layoff
gone, few would have been surprised to see the visitors get off to a fast
start and play well.

The Coyotes, obviously, had other plans.

They outshot Nashville 12-9 in the first period – 39-33 for the game –
coming out with an aggressive mindset not seen this postseason. They
took it to the Predators early and often, carrying a lead for all but 18:02 of
the game.

“We stayed chasing the puck,” captain Shane Doan said. “Last game, in the
first two periods we didn’t play close to the way we wanted to and in the
third we let them back in.”

That didn’t happen Sunday, and really, it never even came close.

“We’ve gave the opponent enough comebacks,” Smith said. “It was nice to
close one out and get some big goals by key players at timely times in the
game where they just scored or they had momentum and we went down
and got an answer and kind of took the wind out of their sails.”

The Coyotes responded to every Predators goal with one of their own in
minutes, preventing the type of momentum shift that has been apparent in
every game the Coyotes have squandered away late.

And now, because of it, they head to Nashville – where they already won
twice this season – in firm control of the series.

“In the playoffs anything can happen, but we’ve got to feel good where we
sit right now,” Smith said. “But saying that, it’s going to be a long series so
we’re setting ourselves up for it.”

Which is why maybe, for as pleased as Tippett seemed Sunday, he wasn’t
exactly ready to say his team found the blueprint for getting by Nashville.

“I don’t know, we’ve done it two ways now,” he said. “We’ve done it with
Smitty and the other way.

“I wouldn’t be buying the blueprints just yet.”

Fair enough, but the Coyotes really do seem to have something here,
especially if they can play as well as they did Sunday the rest of the series.

Tippett, who joked that the team is “just fine down here just kind of playing
along” when asked if his team’s performance will open eyes around the
NHL, said the team is brimming with confidence.

“A lot of times you get in a series where maybe you’re the underdog in the
series and you get a win, but then everybody just thinks the other team
should win the next game because they’re supposed to win,” he said. “Our
guys don’t understand that. Why can’t we win again, I don’t understand.
And that was the mindset in the room [Sunday].

“We won Game 1, we can play better, why can’t we win Game 2?”

That they did both Sunday made themselves winners, and their coach —
for the first time in a while — happy with how they did it.