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Fast start pays off for Coyotes

by Corey Masisak

NASHVILLE -- So much of playoff hockey as a series moves along is a response to a response. The Phoenix Coyotes proved that at the start of Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal series with the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

The Predators, unhappy with how they played in Game 2, had a fast start to Game 3 on Wednesday and grabbed an early two-goal lead on the way to a 2-0 victory. The Coyotes, unhappy with their start in Game 3, returned the favor Friday in Game 4.


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"We did. We wanted to get a forecheck going and get in on them and not let them sit back and dictate the game," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said after his team's 1-0 victory. "We talked about how we had to better -- not worry about what they do, but we've got to be better."

Phoenix controlled the play from the outset of the opening period. The Coyotes held the Predators to just two shots in the first 17 minutes while racking up a goal on nine shots of their own.

The Predators, after starting Game 3 so well and galvanizing a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena, were unable to establish much offensive pressure in the first period of Game 4.

After several minutes of strong play in succession, the Coyotes broke through for the game's lone goal. Doan dislodged the puck from rugged defenseman Hal Gill along the right wall and ended up putting a shot off a stick and into the net. It wasn't a highlight-reel tally, but it gave the Coyotes the lead.

The team that scores first in this series is now 4-0.

"I thought the start of the game was very good for us," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Obviously we got the goal, but I thought the first 10 minutes of the game we were very strong. We really had a strong push back. We were trying to avenge that loss in Game 3. I thought our start to the game was very important tonight and we did a good job with that."

The one goal was enough for goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped all 25 shots he faced.

"I thought we responded really well in the first period," he said. "We came out, we started getting some shots on net and some momentum going their way and it kind went back the other in the second. They came back at us, but it was a big third [period] for our team. Big way to close out the game and hang onto a one-goal lead."

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