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Nashville Predators 4, Phoenix Coyotes 2

by Jimi Russell / Nashville Predators

Ten different Predators found the scoresheet on Monday night, as the Nashville Predators rode a three-goal first period to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at Bridgestone Arena.

Nick Spaling got the night off to a quick start with his goal just 1:02 into the contest – the Preds earliest goal of the season. It was Spaling’s third goal of the year and his third point in his last five games (2g-1a). Matt Cullen and Craig Smith both posted assists on the goal – both Cullen (2g-5a) and Smith (3g-4a) have seven points in their last five games.

Mike Fisher kept things going for the Preds with his fourth goal of the year just seven minutes later. Eric Nystrom and Colin Wilson battled hard for the puck in the corner, as Wilson emerged with the puck and found Fisher in the low slot, who fired the puck past Mike Smith. The helper was Wilson’s third point (3a) in his last three games, while the secondary assist was Nystrom’s first point since Nov. 2 against Los Angeles.

The three-goal period came to a close with a beautiful tick-tack-toe play between Viktor Stalberg and Gabriel Bourque. David Legwand picked up a loose puck in Nashville’s end and fired a cross-ice pass to a streaking Stalberg. Bourque, who jumped over Legwand’s initial pass, rushed towards the net and tipped Stalberg’s pass over Smith’s shoulder for his fourth goal of the year.

Phoenix rebounded, much like they did at Arena on Oct. 31, with a pair second-period goals on 12 shots. Mikkel Boedker tipped a Antoine Vermette shot under Marek Mazanec at the 9:34 mark of the middle frame. Then, less than four minutes later, it was Tim Kennedy who emerged from a scrum with a goal for the Coyotes.

The ‘Yotes kept the pressure in the final frame, firing another 12 shots on goal, but Mazanec was up to the task once again. With Smith pulled late in the period, Shea Weber picked up a puck beside his own net and fired a shot off the near glass that eventually found its way into the empty net to cap the four-goal night for Nashville.

Two Things and Notes:

Shots, Shots and More Shots: After being held to just 17 total shots on Saturday night against the Rangers, the Preds came out guns-a-blazing on Monday night. Nashville registered three goals on 12 shots in the first period, and again posted 12 shots on goal in the middle frame, despite allowing two goals against. With Phoenix’s heavy pressure in the third, the Preds were only able to muster five shots on goal, but they totaled 29 shots on goal. Nashville is averaging the fourth-fewest shots on goal in the League this season (27.9), but it averages 28.3 shots on goal in games which its won. So, the formula is simple… the more shots on goal you have, the better chance you have at winning.

Penalty Kill on Point: Nashville’s penalty kill has held the opposition scoreless in five consecutive games, a span of 14 straight shorthanded situations, after last allowing a power-play goal on Nov. 15 at Pittsburgh. In their last 10 outings, Nashville has given up just three power-play goals in 30 times shorthanded. The Preds penalty kill has allowed the 10th-fewest power-play goals (13), and ranks 11th in the League (83.5 percent), while their home penalty kill continues to improve (81.8 percent, 20th).

Team Notes:

Nashville scored first for the 13th time this season (10-1-2).

The Predators improved to 8-0-1 when leading after the first period, and 12-1-1 when scoring more than one goal.

Tonight was the third time in 2013-14 that Nashville has scored three goals in the opening 20 minutes (last on Oct. 31 at Phoenix).

The Predators and Coyotes combined for only one power play. The fewest combined man-advantage opportunities awarded in a Predators game this season previously had been three (Oct. 15 vs. Florida).

Player Notes:

Nick Spaling's goal was the quickest by a Predator from the opening faceoff this season, coming at the 1:02 mark of the game (previously, 2:28, by Gabriel Bourque on November 15 at Pittsburgh).

Spaling's linemates, Matt Cullen and Craig Smith, have also been hot of late, each with seven points in the last five games (Cullen 2g-5a; Smith 3g-4a).

Eric Nystrom earned an assist on Mike Fisher's goal at 8:22 of the first period, his first point since Nov. 2. Nystrom missed three games with an upper-body injury before returning to the lineup on Saturday.

Shea Weber’s empty-net goal was just the second by a Predator this season (Gabriel Bourque, Nov. 6 at Colorado). Nashville’s captain moved into a tie with Erik Karlsson (OTT), Torey Krug (BOS), and Michael Stone (PHX) for the goal-scoring lead among blueliners (seven goals). Weber added eight hits and three blocked shots – both team highs for the night.

Rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec has not allowed more than two goals in a game since Nov. 15 – a span of five consecutive starts.

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