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Preds blow late lead but beat Coyotes 4-3 in shootout

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A 4-3 shootout victory over Phoenix allowed Predators coach Barry Trotz to look at the positive on Thursday after his team blew a two-goal lead with less than seven minutes left in regulation, and forced the Coyotes to wait a little longer to clinch a much-anticipated playoff berth.

Trotz had plenty of statistics to back up his convictions. The Coyotes scored first and in the previous 39 games when they had done that, they were 34-3-2 -- the best mark in the NHL.

In addition, the Coyotes entered with the League’s best record in overtime and shootouts at 17-6.

So, all in all, not too bad.

"Up 3-1 and they get it to 3-3 and you still find a way to win it," Trotz said. "These guys are excellent in the shootout and overtime. That’s what I’m focusing on."

The win was Nashville’s seventh in eight games after having a six-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to Dallas. In the ever-jumbled Western Conference standings, the Predators jumped from seventh back into fifth. They stand eight points ahead of ninth-place Calgary, which has eight games left -- one more than Nashville.

The Coyotes lost for the second time in as many games after winning nine straight. They could have clinched their first playoff berth since 2002 with a win. Instead, they stand a single point away.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett’s reaction was measured. He admitted playing eight games in 13 days takes its toll.

"They came at us hard and we didn’t have much push-back, but in the end I like the way I our guys hung around the game," he said. "We got a point. We’ll take a point out of that. If you look at the last eight games we’ve played in the last 13 days, to come out of it 6-1-1, I think that speaks volumes about how hard our club has worked."

They also moved into a tie with San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, pending the outcome of the Sharks’ game on Thursday. San Jose also holds a game hand.

Rookie Cal O’Reilly scored for Nashville in the shootout to even the score at 1-1 after Lee Stempniak had struck first for Phoenix. Then David Legwand, with only 10 goals on the season, won it with a wrist shot, sending the 15,970 at Bridgestone Arena into a frenzy.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne stopped defenseman Adrian Aucoin -- hitherto perfect in his previous five shootout tries -- with a glove save and also stopped Radim Vrbata.

"I guess I was cheating a little bit," said Rinne, who made 32 saves, of the stop on Aucoin. "I think he’s done the same move every time and I was the first goalie he beat, maybe a month ago or something. Nothing-nothing game and he was like the 10th shooter or 11th -- something like that. It was really long. He tried to do the same thing this time, too."

Phoenix came back to tie the game with 3:57 left in regulation on defenseman Keith Yandle’s slap shot, as Rinne appeared to be screened by Matthew Lombardi. It was Yandle’s 12th goal.

Wojtek Wolski got Phoenix back in the game with 6:32 left in regulation, beating Rinne with a wrist shot less than one minute after a boarding penalty on Phoenix’s Mathieu Schneider expired to make the score 3-2.

Trotz said he thought that the Predators could have done a better job managing the puck in the third period and said his team got in a little bit of a scramble.

"We played a little bit of a risky game in the third period," Rinne said.

Phoenix had drawn first blood with Stempniak calling his own number on a first-period 2-on-1 for his 10th goal in 10 games. Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist answered with his team-best 29th goal a little more than seven minutes later, as he beat Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with a backhander from the slot as he was hauled down by a defender.

Steve Sullivan put Nashville on top for the first time at 1:05 of the second period. Marcel Goc passed the puck from behind the net to Sullivan who battled for position in close and beat Bryzgalov with a quick shot.

Defenseman Dan Hamhuis’s slap shot from the slot at 9:28 of the second made it 3-1. Hamhuis converted a feed from O’Reilly, who passed the puck back from near the crease, for his fifth goal of the season.

Despite Calgary’s loss, Trotz said he would not feel safe until his team earns six more points.

"I’m still saying 97 [points] until further notice," he said. "We’ve got to do it ourselves. I hate the fact that we’re going to look at the other team and hope they lose their games. Let’s just win our games and take care of it ourselves."

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