Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Russell On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes were left searching for their first road win of the season as they fell to the Nashville Predators by the score of 4-1.
In the first minute of play, Predators' forward Paul Kariya tried to create some offensive when he picked up the puck at the blueline and made his way into the Phoenix zone. But Kariya would quickly find he had little room to move as Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski played the body and rode Kariya out of a shooting lane to bring the rush to an end.
The Predators continued to ride the emotion of the home crowd and try to attack the offensive zone, and their pressure would pay off at 6:49 of the first period. Nashville's Scott Hartnell started the rush when he carried the puck into the Coyotes zone and pulled up at the top of the left face-off circle, he then fed a pass to Jason Arnott in the slot, who quickly moved the puck over to Kariya at the left side of the net. All Kariya had to do was re-direct the pass from Arnott past the leg of goaltender Curtis Joseph to give the Predator's a 1-0 lead.
Phoenix took their first assignment on the penalty kill at 8:26 of the period when Shane Doan was called for roughing. The assignment would get considerably tougher 37-seconds later when Dave Scatchard was called for cross-checking, giving the Predators 1:23 of five-on-three hockey. Despite the obvious disadvantage, the Coyotes rose to the occasion and kept the Nashville offense away from the front of the net as the kill off both penalties and returned to full strength.
Shortly after five-on-five play resumed, the Predators offense struck again, this time it was the individual effort of Martin Erat that would result in a goal. The play began when Erat carried the puck from the left side of the Coyotes zone and as he approached the left side of the net, he moved the puck down to his right skate, then kicked the puck back up to his stick blade where he slid it around the stick of Joseph and into the net for a 2-0 lead at 12:53 of the period.
To Try and infuse some momentum into his teammates, Josh Gratton dropped the gloves with Nashville's Darcy Hordichuk with 5:45 to play in the period. The two warriors came together in the neutral zone and traded a flurry of punches before the on-ice officials could step in and separate the two.
The Coyotes would have to deal with a shortened bench during the first period when leading scorer Steven Reinprecht suffered an upper body injury and left the bench for the locker room. After an examination by the Coyotes medical staff it was determined that Reinprecht would not return to the game.
Despite the shortened bench, the Coyotes would climb back into the game at 17:47 of the period when Fredrik Sjostrom took the puck from the left face-off circle in the offensive zone and ripped a wrist shot past Nashville netminder Tomas Vokoun to make it a 2-1 game.
The score would remain 2-1 for the remainder of the period and both teams failed to sustain quality-scoring chances before the conclusion of the stanza.
The second period began with the Coyotes having to defend their own zone from the Predators offensive attack. Joseph made a series of saves from in close to keep the puck out of the net until Phoenix could clear the zone.
The Coyotes would get a chance to even the score at 6:32 of the period when Nashville's Shea Weber was sent to the penalty box for holding. The Phoenix power play would do a good job of getting the puck inside the offensive zone, but limited shots on goal would allow Vokoun to stay in position and make the saves needed to kill off the penalty to Weber.
At 9:17 of the stanza, Phoenix wound up back on the penalty kill when Mike Zigomanis was assessed a minor penalty for hooking. The ensuing Nashville power play would prove costly for the Coyotes as defenseman Kimmo Timonen blasted a slap shot from the point the sailed through a screen in front of the net and found a lane past Joseph, to make it a 3-1 game.
The Predators increased their lead to three goals exactly two minutes later when the Predator's Ryan Suter snapped a shot from low on the right side that hit Joseph in the chest, but the puck fell to the ice in the crease and ricocheted off the skate of Enver Lisin and into the Phoenix net for a 4-1 Nashville lead.
With just over six-minutes to play in the period, the Coyotes nearly recorded their second goal of the game when a shot by Derek Morris was stopped, sending the rebound to Jeremy Roenick at the right side of the net. But Roenick needed to move the puck from the backhand to his forehand and in the process was unable to keep control of the puck and the Predators defense cleared the zone.
After the second period came to a close the Coyotes offensive attack appeared to intensify with a series of rushes into the Nashville zone that caused Vokoun to scramble to make a trio of stops. Despite the fierce attack, the second period expired and the two teams headed into the locker room with the Predators holding a 4-1 advantage.
The Predators tried to add to their lead at the start of the third period bringing another early period onslaught at the Coyotes. Once again, Phoenix absorbed the early pressure until they could even out the tempo of play.
At 4:22 of the third, a wild turn of events took place, resulting a pair of fights. It all began when Georges Laraque administered a clean hit on Hordichuk deep in the Coyotes zone. As the play moved back up ice and into the neutral zone, the Predators Jerered Smithson grabbed Phoenix defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and the two dropped the gloves and came together in a battle. At the same time, deep in the Nashville zone, Coyotes blueliner Nick Boynton and Nashville's Jordin Tootoo put the gloves away and traded punches. After several moments of battle all participants were sent to the penalty box and the Coyotes ended up receiving a power play with Smithson receiving the extra two minutes.
On the man-advantage, the Coyotes were unable to produce a series of quality scoring chances. As a result, the power play would conclude with the Coyotes being unable to close the gap on the Predators.
With just over nine-minutes to play in regulation, another brawl would break out when Josh Gratton carried the puck into the Predators zone, the play was immediately whistled dead due to the Coyotes being offsides, and while every player on the ice adhered to the whistle, Nashville's Dan Hamhuis made a point to skate over and drill Gratton with a hit along the boards.
The teams came together once again and after a few seconds, Derek Morris and Nashville's Vernon Fiddler emerged in a one-on-one battle. Morris quickly took control of the bout as he dished out punches of punishment to Fiddler, who was forced to take the beating that rightfully belonged to Hamhuis. The end result however, would seem to favor the Predators as Morris received was dealt a misconduct, sending the Coyotes alternate captain to the dressing room for the remainder of the contest.
The final minutes of the contest would slip off the clock without further incident as the Coyotes fell to the Predators by the score of 4-1.
REINPRECHT OUT EIGHT WEEKS
On Saturday night, Phoenix Coyotes center Steven Reinprecht, suffered a fractured collarbone in the loss to Nashville.
Reinprecht has been placed on the injured reserve list and is expected to miss eight weeks of action.