There were a lot of storylines for Tuesday's game between the Nashville Predators and the Arizona Coyotes - almost all of which would have their payoffs. Keith Yandle's 500th game, Martin Erat's homecoming and Arizona's first awkward run-in with ex-center and buy out victim Mike Ribeiro to name a few.
So there was plenty to watch for in the Coyotes' first road game of the season, but ultimately the Desert Dogs came up just short, losing to the red-hot Predators in the shootout, 4-3.
The first goal came three minutes in off the stick of Rob Klinkhammer, set up by a Dave Moss centering. It was the first time the Coyotes drew first blood all season, but it would be short-lived. After Oliver Ekman-Larsson overskated a puck in the offensive zone, Ribeiro made the Coyotes pay on the ensuing four-on-one rush. General manager Don Maloney and the Coyotes zeitgeist let out a collective groan at that moment.
Arizona would turn up the heat near the end of the period, with several solid opportunities. The best came from the stick of Sam Gagner, who found Dave Moss at point-blank range, but just could not find its way past Pekka Rinne.
Rinne was good if not great in the game, stopping 33 of 36 in the winning effort. He was opposed by Devan Dubnyk who got the start over the struggling Mike Smith. With 23 saves on 26 attempts, the Arizona netminder played well enough to win the game but ultimately came one save short.
In the second period, Brandon McMillan would get called for the first penalty of the game. While the penalty kill held strong for two minutes, as soon as McMillan stepped back on the ice, a Ryan Ellis wrister would give Nashville the 2-1 lead. Keith Yandle would get the puck off the power play draw minutes later to pot his first of the season to tie the game at two.
It was back and forth hockey early in the third period until Arizona generated some prolonged pressure at about the five-minute mark. The pressure would not result in a Coyote goal, but the ensuing power play would; Martin Erat with his second on the season. So, Ribeiro was not the only one who got to show the ex what they missed out on.
The lead was short-lived again. Not a minute later, Ryan Ellis would force a neutral zone turnover and James Neal would slap home the equalizer. From then on, the Coyotes locked it down defensively, not allowing a shot in the last eleven minutes of regulation.
Fast-forward to overtime. A James Neal slashing call late would bleed into extra hockey time. As he came out of the penalty box, Nashville gets a good look on the rush, but the Ryan Ellis shot would hit the post to keep the game tied. That would garner some momentum for the Preds in the overtime period, but the game would go to the shootout. It was there that Ryan Ellis would score the shootout winner.
While the result was not a win, this effort was one step closer to the Tippett-style hockey that won the Pacific three years ago. The Coyotes only recorded four giveaways, outshot the Preds 36-26 and were the better team in the faceoff dot. There were still some lapses - especially in the early going - but this game can and should be viewed as progress.
Sadly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was one of the most blatant culprits, as he turned yet another poor performance at both ends of the ice. He was his normal self on the power play, but OEL's even strength play may be a developing issue on a team that needs its budding superstar.
- For Nashville's perspective, visit On The Forecheck
- After giving up four power play goals on four opportunities against St Louis, the Coyotes penalty kill was a perfect 5-of-5 against the Preds (the Ellis goal was scored right as McMillan exited the penalty box).
- Sam Gagner has yet to score a point for the Coyotes.
- Martin Hanzal had the game off nursing his lower-body injury
- Ryan Ellis- Three point night and the game-winner in the shootout.
- Keith Yandle - Goal and an assist and a plus-one with a game-leading nine shots on goal
- Mike Ribeiro - Two assists.
Next up, the Coyotes travel to the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota to take on the Wild Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:00PM Arizona time (8:00PM ET).