NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - After getting his second straight shutout, Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun gave teammate Brendan Witt the credit.
"Brendan Witt is playing great," Vokoun said after stopping 24 shots in the Predators' 2-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. "He blocks shots. He is also a leader. With him in the lineup the whole defense has the pressure taken off of them.We have a lot of young guys and a veteran like Brendan helps them play better."
Vokoun, who helped Nashville beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 Tuesday night, has four shutouts for the season and 16 in his career. Since the Olympic break, Vokoun is 5-0-2.
"We have improved our game and the results are showing," Vokoun said. "We have been playing much smarter."
Predators coach Barry Trotz gave Vokoun his due, but he was quick to add that the entire defense played a solid game.
"I think our guys are committed to tightening up, and we're getting good goaltending," Trotz said. "Kimmo Timonen blocked shots. He made good decisions. He played a lot of hard minutes. I thought Marek Zidlicky was outstanding. He had a lot of jump. He played a real physical game."
Trotz also believes Witt, obtained from the Washington Capitals minutes bofore the trade deadline, is the key.
"Brendan gives us a big physical presence," Trotz said. "Guys are not whacking away at Vokoun as much as they had been. Those are key elements. Brendan has been a real good fit for us."
The victory was the franchise-record 39th of the season for the Predators, who trail Central Division-leading Detroit by nine points.
"We have to get as many points as can right now," Trotz said. "We have to get some separation. We have a lot of teams playing each other in the Western Conference. We are going to gain some ground on someone."
Darcy Hordichuk scored the first goal for the Predators at 10:50 of the first period. Skating along the extended goal line, he took a wrist shot from the left side that went bounced off the inside of the left leg of Phoenix goalie Curtis Joseph and into the right side of the net.
Adam Hall made it 2-0 with 1:30 left to play in the second period, scoring a power-play goal from in front of the net as he went top shelf against Joseph.
"It is important that we don't just focus on our top line guys like Paul Kariya or Steve Sullivan to get us all of our points," Hall said. "We feel like we have a lot of depth. We are going to use all four lines and all of our defensemen down the stretch."
Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky liked the effort he saw from his team even though he was not happy with the final result.
"Losing is tough," he said. "As I said to our players after the game, no one likes to lose. But playing with the effort we played with in this game goes a long way. We made one mistake late in the first period and we got beat on a power play in the second period, but other than that I thought we played strong."
Notes: This was the sixth defeat on the road for Joseph. ... Steve Sullivan assisted on Hall's goal, giving him 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his last five games. ... Scott Hartnell also assisted on Hall's goal giving him 41 points for the season, tying his career high.