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Predators miss opportunities and net in Game 4

by John Kreiser

If the Nashville Predators don't get past the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semifinals, their inability to capitalize on Grade-A chances in Game 4 will be a big reason.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
GAA: 1.85 | SVP: 0.946
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was flawless in stopping all 25 Nashville shots that were on net in Friday night's 1-0 win. But the Predators hurt themselves even more by firing shots that were off-target -- Nashville missed the net on 14 shots, including a handful of excellent scoring chances in the second period when the Predators carried the play but couldn't cash in.

No player symbolized Nashville's off-target shooting more than Patrik Hornqvist, who ended the second period having taken eight shots at goal -- and getting none on target. He had three blocked and missed the net on the other five, including three glorious chances that saw him hit a post, fire a shot over the crossbar and push a pass from David Legwand wide of the right post.

Hornqvist had three shots on goal in the third period and had a fourth one blocked, giving him 12 of Nashville's 55 shot attempts -- but just three of the Preds' 25 shots on goal.

The Predators now head to Arena for an elimination game on Monday owning the dubious honor of being the only team among the eight still playing that has yet to score more than three goals in a game. Nashville is the first team since the 1976 Atlanta Flames that failed to score more than three goals in each of its first nine playoff games.

Power outage -- The Predators had the NHL's top power-play during the regular season (21.6 percent), largely because they were No. 1 with a 22.9 percent success rate at home. But the power play has gone dead at Bridgestone Arena during the postseason.

Shea Weber
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 26 | +/-: -1
Nashville went 0-for-3 with the extra man in the loss on Friday night, dropping the Preds to 0-for-23 on the power play in their five games at Bridgestone Arena this spring. In contrast, they are 5-for-14 on the road, including 3-for-7 in the first two games of the series at Phoenix.

Phoenix, by contrast, has killed off all 16 opposition power plays in its five road games during the playoffs, but has allowed opponents four goals in 18 tries at home.

Road warrior --
The Coyotes could wind up with the home-ice edge if they advance to the conference finals and wind up playing Los Angeles (which leads St. Louis 3-0 in the other Western semifinal). But the way Smith is playing away from the desert, they might be better off opening on the road.

Smith is 3-2 and has allowed 14 goals in five games at Arena. But he's 4-1 and has allowed just six goals (1.15 goals-against average) on the road, where he has posted shutouts in two of his last three games. 

Firing blanks -- Friday's game marked the 10th shutout in 61 playoff games this season -- and the fourth one that ended 1-0. No winning team in a shutout has scored more than four goals.

Home teams have six of the shutouts; visitors have four.

Oddly, the first nine shutouts were recorded by nine different goaltenders. Smith became the first one with two when he blanked Nashville on Friday. He also became the first goaltender in the history of the Coyotes' franchise to win a playoff game 1-0.

Opposite courses -- Statistics show that the team scoring first wins about two out of every three games. The Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to turning early leads into wins.

The Preds' 1-0 loss on Friday night was their ninth game this spring -- and the team that scored first has won all nine. The Flyers have also played nine games, but the team getting the first goal has won just once; the team that has opened the scoring in Philadelphia's second-round series against New Jersey has lost all three games.

Overall, teams scoring first have won 40 of the 61 games played so far this spring.

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