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RECAP: Coyotes downed 3-2 by Predators in tight-knit affair

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It took all three periods for Nashville to figure out Arizona and escape with the points - and that’s something the Desert Dogs can be proud of.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Arizona Coyotes hosted the Nashville Predators it ended in a wacky 3-2 overtime, where Christian Fischer’s game-winning goal had to be reviewed twice before being called in the Coyotes favor.

If that sounds familiar it’s because a similar overtime fluke was necessary when the Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Tuesday. Only this time the Coyotes needed a twice-reviewed goal to be called off for goaltender interference.

The game started off extremely well with Clayton Keller scoring the first goal just past the five minute mark of the first period. Nick Cousins brought the team up 2-0 when he scored at 15:43 of the first. Christian Dvorak kept the good times rolling in the second period when he buried a pretty backhanded pass from Max Domi.

That’s where the scoring pretty much ended for the ‘Yotes and things started to turn in the Kings favor. Tanner Pearson opened up the scoring just 27 seconds after Dvorak’s goal from a face off. Jeff Carter deflected two Drew Doughty shots in the third period to tie the game and send it to overtime.

One thing that made overtime extra nerve wracking for both fan bases is that before this game the goalies had 6 combined NHL starts and neither had ever faced an NHL overtime before. Unlike the Kings’ Jack Campbell the Coyotes goalie, Adin Hill, wasn’t originally expected to start. The team was hoping that a sick Darcy Kuemper, the temporary starter until Antti Raanta is back from injury, would be feeling well enough to play. Hill only learned he was starting about 5 minutes before he arrived to the arena.

It is remarkable that both rookie goalies were able to get past OT at all. The shootout itself ended going 5 rounds in total. Campbell made saves on Cousins, Richard Panik and Dvorak but allowed goals from Keller and Alex Goligoski. Hill allowed one goal from Adrian Kempe, but made saves on Anze Kopitar, Carter, and the winning save on Tyler Toffoli.

There were a lot of Coyotes milestones achieved in this game: Hill’s first NHL win, making him the first goalie to record a win with the Tucson Roadrunners and the Coyotes, he is also the the second youngest goaltender in franchise history to earn a win for the team, this was the team’s first shootout win of the season, Keller is now the third rookie in Coyotes history to reach 50 points, Cousins reached a career high in points at 17, and Dvorak matched his career high in points at 34. Hopefully more milestones can continue to be met tonight against the Predators. An additional piece of good news is that Head Coach Rick Tocchet has returned from personal leave and will be behind the bench tonight.

Nashville is riding high right now, they recently had a 10 game win streak that propelled them to being the first team in the league. As beat report Adam Vingan pointed out the Predators have never won a division title, the President’s trophy or the Stanley Cup. This season they have the potential to win all three. They’ll be playing the Coyotes on the first game of a back-to-back before heading to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche. The Predators and Coyotes have split the season series, with each home team taking the win, tonight’s contest will determine the overall winner.

Game Summary

Though not getting the result wanted by all, a win, the Coyotes’ performance in their 3-2 loss against the Predators was just about as good as it could have been in defeat. With nothing but pride on the line, the home side matched pace with the Western Conference leaders, falling just short to the superior side who will be playing at the pointy end of the season with good reason.

The first period of this evenings’ matchup saw Nashville and Arizona defensively duel with some great goaltending on display by Vezina favourite Pekka Rinne and Darcy Kuemper.

Kyle Turris of Nashville believed he had scored in the first period, though after review the play was deemed offside and the scores remained 0-0.

The first 20 minutes went scoreless as the Coyotes made eight shots on goal while the Predators made nine of their own. We were however, blessed with this rare beauty:

Arizona took the first lead of the night as Christian Dvorak followed up his own rebound from a block and launched the puck into the back of the net off of Alexei Emelin just over four minutes into the period. Dvorak was setup by Max Domi.

That lead didn’t last night, with Craig Smith linking up with Ryan Ellis on the rush to tie the game 1:40 later.

The Coyotes retook their lead through Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who sniped in a classic OEL goal off of a beautiful Clayton Keller cross zone pass just as a power play expired. Derek Stepan also collected an assist on the play.

Phoenix favourite* Kyle Turris levelled the scores in the opening minute of the third period, as the Coyotes came out of the final break apparently not ready to play. All Desert Dogs back to defend were drawn to Kevin Fiala behind the net and like many times we’ve seen before, a quick pass back to the front of the net resulted in an easy goal for an un-marked Turris.

The Predators then took a 3-2 lead with 15:29 left in the final period, as Fiala synced up with Turris off of a face-off win in their offensive zone and ripped a quick shot in from the right side of the left circle.

After killing a 5 on 3 penalty, the Coyotes then wrestled back momentum from the Preds through Josh Archibald who drew a penalty by driving hard to the net and getting tripped. That power play opportunity was killed and Pekka Rinne stood on his head the rest of the way, helping Nashville withstand everything Arizona threw at them to hold on for a 3-2 win.

*sarcasm.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes are back in action at home on Saturday night as they host the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is at 6:00pm MT at Gila River Arena and can also be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or tuned into ESPN 620 AM.