GLENDALE Ariz. – The most important thing for Shane Doan on Wednesday night was his Phoenix Coyotes wrapping up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
But scoring his first goal in 24 games wasn't a bad bonus.
Phoenix's captain pushed home a rebound with 2:28 left, his first since Jan. 31, to ensure a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena that secured the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference for a team no one thought would even be in the playoff hunt this season.
Seconds after Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stoned David Legwand on one end, Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt ripped a Lee Stempniak pass to the high slot to snap a 2-2 tie with 9:24 left in regulation to put his team ahead for good. Doan then iced the win by banging home a Wojtek Wolski rebound to give Phoenix its seventh straight win at home and 104 points in this most improbable of seasons.
"Bryzie just makes an unbelievable save that's obviously the biggest play of the game, (Pyatt) scores on the other end and we find a way to win," said Doan, who laid prone on the ice looking skyward after finally getting the monkey off his back with his teammates huddled around him.
"Yandle said he saw (the monkey) running or he grabbed it and threw it off me, one of the two. I obviously needed to get one, but getting it in a win was huge."
Wolski, Lauri Korpikoski and Petteri Nokelainen also scored for Phoenix, which will have home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the first time since the 1998-99 season and only the second time since moving to the desert. The Coyotes haven't lost at Jobing.com Arena since Mar. 2 – the day before Wolski, Stempniak, Nokelainen and two other players (Mathieu Schneider and Derek Morris) were acquired at the trade deadline.
The Coyotes, who travel to Los Angeles on Thursday, could play either the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings or the Predators in the first round. All they know now is Game 1 will be on home ice.
"Home ice doesn't guarantee anything of course, but it's great that you don't have to travel right away," said Korpikoski, who had gone 27 games between goals himself. "Now we can stay home, prepare and get the advantage. It's a big thing for us."
Shea Weber scored just 12 seconds into the game for Nashville and Steve Sullivan snapped the Preds' 0-for-26 drought on the power play 5:53 into the third period. But Bryzgalov shut the door from there and Nashville dropped to sixth place in the West behind the Red Wings, who beat Columbus.
"That was not a real strong game for us by any stretch," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We were sloppy, and there were a lot of guys that didn't compete like they needed to tonight. We got what we deserved."
Nashville lost leading scorer Patric Hornqvist in the second period when he was hit in the upper body by a Weber slap shot during a Nashville power play. Weber hit Phoenix center and former Predator Vernon Fiddler in the behind on the same power play and Fiddler had to be helped off the ice, as well.
"Obviously I feel bad seeing (Hornqvist) get hurt, but he gets pushed from behind right there into it and I didn't mean to hit him," said Weber. "We need to play better in the third period. That's where you win games, and one bounce here or there can change a whole (playoff) series."
The first period featured 21 shots on goal with each team scoring on their first shot. Just 1:54 after Weber scored for Nashville, Korpikoski was sent in alone off a Nashville giveaway and slid the puck between goalie Pekka Rinne's pads to get the momentum back for Phoenix.
Wolski gave Phoenix its first lead at 16:27 of the second period when he slipped behind the defense and collected a beautiful pass from Keith Yandle, pulling hard to the forehand for a breakaway. It was Wolski's 23rd goal of the season and his sixth since joining Phoenix.