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Phoenix deals Preds third straight loss

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Yanic Perreault and Shane Doan
Photo by Norm Hall/Phoenix Coyotes
Yanic Perreault, one of four injured Predators to return to the lineup Tuesday, pursues Phoenix captain Shane Doan around the goal cage.
Special teams play was the difference Tuesday night as the Phoenix Coyotes tallied two power play goals and a short-handed one en route to a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators at Glendale Arena. Mike Sillinger, Dan Hamhuis and Martin Erat all scored for the Predators, who took a 1-0 lead 12:53 into the game but found themselves playing from behind 2:27 into the second period. Nashville was able to tie the score at 2-2, but the Coyotes outscored Nashville 3-1 in the last half of the contest to secure the win.

The Predators move to 42-22-8 on the season and return home to face Detroit Thursday after losing the final three games of a four-game road trip. Nashville's last win was against the Red Wings, 3-2 in a shootout at Joe Louis Arena last Tuesday.

Phoenix took control of the game with the one-two punch of a short-handed, go-ahead goal late in the second period and a five-on-three power-play tally at 12:10 of the third. "That hurt us," Predators associate coach Brent Peterson said. "Their special teams outplayed our special teams. They scored two on their [power plays] and we got none, and we allowed a short-handed goal. It wasn't a good night all around for anybody."

On a positive note, Nashville cleaned off its injured reserve roster in one fell swoop Tuesday, as Yanic Perreault, Scott Walker, Danny Markov and Mark Eaton all returned to the lineup. Markov was the only one of the foursome to figure in the scoring, and the reintegration of the injured players seemed to break the team's rhythm a bit. But it's a necessary step as the playoffs approach, said Peterson. "We're trying to get them ready and trying to get them back in," Peterson explained. "It didn't work out tonight. We didn't play really good as a team or really that hard. [The addition of the four returning players into the lineup] was a factor. But we've got to get them back and get them going. We can't just throw them into the mix in the playoffs. That's part of the plan. It might hurt us for a few games here, but it's like catching a speeding train and they're on a bus right now. We need to get them back playing and working together. We have to do it."

The Predators started the game like a struck match, with a bright but short-lived push to open the period. The line of Paul Kariya, Jordin Tootoo and Sillinger generated a chance eight seconds in, then Nashville went on its first power play at the :38 mark. Despite the manpower disadvantage, the Coyotes proceeded to outwork the Preds while killing the penalty and carried that effort through the first half of the period. Nashville got on the board first, though, when Sillinger's pass to Kariya from the top of the right circle deflected in off the skate of a Coyotes defenseman.

It looked as if Nashville would carry the 1-0 lead into the intermission, but Derek Morris' power-play goal with only 12.6 seconds left in the period knotted the game. Phoenix then took the lead at 2:27 of the second, when Shane Doan poked home a Matthew Spiller shot that had trickled through the legs of Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

Kariya, Tootoo and Sillinger manufactured some more prime chances with six minutes gone, but Nashville wouldn't tie the score until 9:51 on Hamhuis' goal. On that play, the Predators had possession of the puck in Phoenix's zone as a hooking penalty to Spiller expired. Erat worked the puck from the right corner across the ice to Hamhuis at the top of the left circle. Hamhuis skated forward to the face-off dot before ripping a shot that zipped high to the far side and made it 2-2.

The goal seemed to invigorate the Predators, who played stronger for a stretch during the middle period. For the most part they were limiting Phoenix's chances, getting the puck out of their own zone efficiently and sustaining some pressure in the Coyotes' end.

A hooking penalty to Josh Gratton at 15:32 put Nashville on its fourth power-play of the game. Steve Sullivan and Kariya each had a good shot at pocketing the Predators' third goal, but when the puck went to the right corner, defenseman Kimmo Timonen pinched to keep it deep. With all five Predators below the hashmarks in the offensive zone, Keith Ballard took the puck from the corner and sent it to Morris in the far circle. Morris then lobbed the puck ahead of Tyson Nash, who had no one between him and Vokoun. Nash caught up with the puck at the Predators' blue line and approached Vokoun moving from right to left. At the front of the net, Nash reached back to his right to try to tuck the puck by Vokoun with his backhand. The Nashville netminder made the save, but could not control the rebound. Ballard skated down the slot unmarked to easily deposit the loose puck into a mostly open net. For the Coyotes, whose penalty killers had also created great scoring chances on two of the Predators' previous three power plays, the short-handed goal put them in the lead 3-2.

Period three was relatively quiet until 10:36, when simultaneous penalties to Shea Weber and Scott Hartnell put the Predators down two men for two full minutes. Vokoun made a pair of stops on forward Mike Comrie and Nashville killed off a large portion of the power play before Comrie, stationed at the right post, put home a rebound of a left point shot at 12:10. That widened the margin to 4-2, but only temporarily, as Erat responded two-and-a-half minutes later. The play developed after Phoenix--with help from Nashville's Weber--failed to clear the zone and was unable to get a handle on the puck. Erat seized the opportunity in the left circle, took one stride forward and fired a quick-release wrister that beat Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph to the short side. With 5:19 remaining on the clock and the score at 4-3, Nashville held out hope.

That optimism waned 39 seconds later, however, when a turnover by Hamhuis just inside the Predators blue line ended up in the back of Nashville's net. Hamhuis stumbled and fell, losing the puck to Mike Johnson. The Phoenix winger was joined by Oleg Kvasha for a two-on-one rush. Johnson passed across to Kvasha on the right side just as Nashville's lone defender, Kimmo Timonen, dove to limit Johnson's options. Kvasha roofed the puck, knocking Vokoun's water bottle from the top of the net onto the ice.

The Predators had several opportunities in the final minutes of play, with Vokoun on the bench for an extra attacker and Phoenix forward Mike Ricci in the box for tripping. The Nashville power play was silenced for the sixth and final time of the game, and the visitors were ultimately unable to affect the 5-3 final.

"Both the power play and penalty kill have really struggled lately and that's a big part of the game," Peterson said. "We're a little disjointed right now. We've just got to get everybody back playing together."

Notes: The Predators are 2-1-0 vs. the Coyotes this season, with the final game of the series to be played in Nashville on April 15... Martin Erat scored his 17th goal of the season, a new career high. He added an assist for his seventh multi-point game of the season. He now has three points (1g-2a) in his last two contests. He also finished Tuesday's game with a team-high +2 rating... Mike Sillinger scored his 26th goal of the season. He now has points in three straight games (2g-3a). He also registered a game-high eight shots, which is also a career high for him... After missing 10 games with an ankle injury, Danny Markov returned to the lineup Tuesday and posted an assist on Sillinger's goal. It was his first point since he posted an assist Jan. 23 in Detroit... Paul Kariya assisted on Sillinger's goal and has three points in his last two games (2g-1a). The assist, his 46th on the season, extends the franchise record. He has 19 points (9g-10a) in his last 16 games... Dan Hamhuis scored his fourth goal of the season. That gives him two points in his last three games (1g-1a)... Scott Hartnell's assist was the 100th of his career... Scott Nichol posted his second assist of the season on Erat's goal... Shea Weber posted his fourth assist of the season and has an assist in each of his last two games. He also finished the game a +1, giving him a +10 rating over his last 11 games... Scott Walker skated in his 400th game as a Predator. Walker joins Greg Johnson and Kimmo Timonen as the only players in franchise history to play 400 games and record 200 points in a Nashville uniform. Walker entered Tuesday's game with a total of 245 points (96g-149a) as a Predator... Nashville is now 15-16-7 on the road and 22-12-6 when scoring first... Defensemen Brendan Witt, Markov and Hamhuis each registered a game-high four hits... Vern Fiddler, Marek Zidlicky, David Legwand, Adam Hall and Ryan Suter were scratches for Nashville. Darcy Hordichuk served the first game of a three-game suspension... Attendance at Glendale Arena was 14,038.

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