GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The way the Nashville Predators see it, once they knocked eight days of rust off their skates and found their legs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, they began to dominate play and pushed the Phoenix Coyotes back onto their hind legs for the third period and most of the overtime.
It just wasn't enough to win the game.
The Predators outshot Phoenix 16-1 in the third period and put 25 shots on Mike Smith in the final 34 minutes of the game, but could do no better than pull even on Martin Erat's power play goal with 4:42 left in regulation. And while the Coyotes had only seven shots after the second intermission, one was Ray Whitney's overtime game-winner that gave the Coyotes a 4-3 victory.
COYOTES VS. PREDATORS
Unheralded names could decide the seriesAdam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are about star players showcasing their skills, but they also are about surprise players stepping to the forefront -- and each of these clubs had one of those surprise players in the their first-round series wins.
READ MORE ›
Nashville outshot Phoenix 42-24, drew five penalties and had a handful of prime scoring chances it would like to have back. The Predators tipped their sticks to Coyotes goalie Mike Smith while eagerly awaiting another crack at him.
"We have a couple of areas we have to tighten up," coach Barry Trotz said after Saturday's practice. "But we got three [goals] and they got four. We should make sure we win the game when we get three. We had lots of chances, but they found ways to keep it out of the net."
That sounds a lot like the rope-a-dope hockey the Coyotes used – by necessity, not design – to win three overtime games against Chicago on their way to a six-game series win in the first round. The Blackhawks felt they were this close to solving Phoenix, but never did.
But coming off their own first-round win over Detroit, the Predators remain confident that they are a win in Sunday's Game 2 from being right where they want to be.
"Everyone knew it wasn't going to be easy. They play a good team game," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said. "They block a lot of shots and clear out the second chances. We had some chances we could have easily buried, but Smith made the saves. We're not frustrated, we just want to be better and find a way to win."
Not surprisingly, Mike Fisher and the Nashville centers spent part of Saturday's practice working on faceoffs. Phoenix won 59 percent of the draws (46-32) -- including Martin Hanzal's win that led to Whitney's winning goal. The Coyotes also used their dominance in the circle to help kill four Nashville power plays before Erat cleaned up a blocked shot in the slot to give the Predators their third goal on 27 postseason chances with the extra man.
"All their centers are really good," Fisher said. "We have to find a way to be better in that area and win more battles," Fisher said. "You try to learn tendencies and try to find another way. They play a lot like us. We won some of those (similar style) games against Detroit too. We've seen it. We know what to expect.
"But we were very good as the game wore on and we want to carry that on."
Nashville's Alexander Radulov was held without a shot and said he definitely felt the effects of the long layoff early on. He missed the net on all four shot attempts but said he felt much better as the game wore on.
"Their goalie played a huge game and he made big saves in the third period and overtime and that's what we have to battle through," Radulov said. "We have to make things harder on him. We tried hard and he was good, maybe in some areas, a little bit lucky. We had chance after chance we didn't bury in overtime. Then we make one mistake and they score."