By: Chad Lynch
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes dropped a 5-1 decision at the hands of the Nashville Predators in the final meeting of the season between the two clubs.
Early in the first period, the Coyotes were put on the man-advantage as Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter was sent to the penalty box for hooking. On the power play, the Phoenix attack seemed a little rusty as they just couldn't get an attack established within the Predators zone as the clubs returned to five-on-five hockey.
Shortly after the conclusion of Suter's penalty, the Coyotes took their second power play of the contest when Yanic Perreault was called for high sticking. However, in almost a mirror effort of their first man-advantage, Phoenix was unable to weaken the Predators defense enough to produce sustained pressure on netminder Chris Mason.
At 9:02 of the opening frame, Phoenix made their first trip to the penalty box when defenseman Keith Ballard was assessed a phantom interference call in front of the Coyotes goal. On the ensuing penalty kill, the Predators did get a couple shots on the Coyotes net, but goaltender David LeNeveu was in position to make the stops and keep the game scoreless.
The Predators took back-to-back penalties beginning at 12:43 of the first as Darcy Hordichuck (charging) and Bendan Witt (delay-of-game) made trips to the box. But once again, the Coyotes would struggle to find the back of the net due to a lack of constant pressure. The Coyotes best scoring chance came off the stick of Mike Comrie at the left side of the net where he tried to slide the puck past Mason, but was stopped by an impressive kick save, keeping Phoenix from taking the first lead of the game.
Late in the first period, the Coyotes made a pair of trips to the box with Paul Mara (holding) and Boyd Devereaux (tripping) heading off the ice. Devereaux's penalty came with 35-seconds remaining on the Mara penalty, giving the Predators a brief two-man advantage, but strong defensive play within their own zone and a selfless blocked shot by Ballard, kept Nashville from scoring the first goal of the game as the opening period came to an end and the clubs skated off the ice after 20-minutes of play tied at 0-0.
The Predators began the second period with 45 seconds of power play time, but they would only need 25 seconds as Nashville's Martin Erat snapped a wrist shot from the left-hand boards that beat LeNeveu for a 1-0 Predators lead.
Scott Hartnell made it 2-0 Nashville, just 23 seconds after Erat's goal, when Hartnell came lying down the left hand boards, before firing a slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle that beat LeNeveu over the glove hand for his 25th tally of the season.
With 14:43 to play in the second, Nashville's Brendan Witt executed a vicious slash on Ballard, deep in the Predators zone. With a penalty already coming to Witt for his actions, Witt and Ballard decided to settle the score one-on-one as the two warriors dropped the gloves and took par in a brief fight before being sent to the penalty box. Once both men were placed safely inside the box, the Coyotes were handed a four-minute power play as Witt was hit with minor penalties for slashing and cross-checking. The Coyotes began their fifth power play of the game in much the same fashion as the previous four, with an inability to back the Predators up into their own zone and get quality scoring chances on net.
Midway through the Coyotes power play, a tripping call on Derek Morris wiped out the man-advantage and pitted the clubs at four-on-four hockey.
While skating four skated aside, the Coyotes had a great chance to cut the deficit in half when Mike Johnson broke into the Nashville zone on a breakaway, but Mason made a great stop to keep Phoenix off the scoreboard.
With 11:30 to play in the second, Nashville's Yanic Perreault was hooked on a breakaway attempt that resulted in not only a missed scoring opportunity, but a delayed penalty call to the Coyotes. The Predators took advantage of the delayed penalty by pulling Mason in favor of the extra attacker, a play that would haunt Phoenix as Perreault got the puck back at 9:14 of the second and ripped a shot from the right face-off circle that beat LeNeveu on the glove-hand side, giving Nashville a 3-0 lead.
Phoenix forward Bill Thomas had a good scoring opportunity with 5:20 to play in the second when he broke free inside the Nashville zone and tried to fake Mason to the right, but the Predators netminder stayed with Thomas as he moved back to the left side of the net and eventually stopped Thomas' shot on net.
Mike Comrie had a point-blank chance in the final minute of the second period, but once again, Mason was solid between the pipes, turning the shot aside and keeping score at 3-0 after two periods of play.
As the buzzer sounded to end the period, Phoenix forward Dave Scatchard dropped the gloves with Brendan Witt deep in the Nashville zone, resulting in matching fighting majors for both players to start the third period.
The penalty-filled game continued into the third period as the Coyotes and Predators each made trips to the box in the opening five minutes of the period.
Nashville went back on the penalty kill a 7:58 of the third when Danny Markov was called for roughing. The Coyotes would finally be able to take full advantage of the extra attacker as defenseman Dennis Seidenberg released a snap shot from just inside the blue line at 9:47 of the frame that made its way through a crowd in front of the Predators net and past Mason to make it a 3-1 game.
Following Seidenberg's goal, the Predators came right back and just 15 seconds later, regained the three goal lead when Scottie Upshall fired a shot from the left-hand face-off circl the deflected off the blocker of LeNeveu and into the Phoenix net to make the score 4-1.
Then, a bizarre play 45 seconds later, gave the Predators a 5-1 lead. With a delayed penalty coming to Nashville, the Coyotes moved the puck behind the Predators zone where Geoff Sanderson tried to send a pass back to the point, but in a freak-instance, the puck hit a chip in the ice en-route to the point, jumped over the stick blade of the Coyotes point-man and sailed the length of the ice and into an empty Phoenix net. After review, it was concluded that the last member of the Predators to touch the puck was goaltender Chris Mason; giving Mason his first career NHL goal.
That would conclude all the scoring on Saturday night as the Coyotes fell to the Predators by the score of 5-1.