From the opening faceoff, the Preds set the tone that tonight's game was going to be different than the first two; the coaches opted to open with the Spaling-Wilson-Yip energy line and those guys made a conscious effort to throw the body around on that first shift.
The crowd responded with similar energy from the get-go and Nashville exited the first period with a 2-0 lead; Pekka Rinne made sure the score held up as Nashville cut its series deficit to one game, 2-1.
The Preds have an opportunity to even the series on home ice Friday night in Game 4.
Now on to the musings…
Wall Battles -- Both Nashville goals --- the Legwand goal to open the scoring and the Fisher goal 1:06 later --- came off of board battles won by the Preds. The first after Hornqvist won a battle high in the defensive zone to chip the puck past the Phoenix defender and then continued hard after the loose puck to force Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith to play the play the puck into a turnover for Legwand's goal. The second came after Erat won the puck back on the halfboards in the offensive zone and fed a two-on-one down low between Fisher and Kostitsyn. Those are two examples of the type of "detail plays" the coaching staff stressed the last two days as "returning to Predators hockey."
Defensive Communictation -- Nashville's communication in the defensive zone has been markedly better tonight than earlier in the series. It has helped the Preds pick up the trailing man and the backdoor cuts better tonight than they did in Games 1 and 2. As a result, the Preds have been in better position tonight to win the races for loose pucks in the defensive zone and are limiting sustained zone time for the Phoenix offense. Despite Phoenix's 32 shots, the Coyotes had very few odd-man rushes and almost no even-strength multi-shot sequences.
Reversal Of Fortune -- The Coyotes made a living in the First Round and first two games of Round 2 by blocking shots in the defensive zone and frustrating opposing offenses. Tonight the Preds “out blocked the Coyotes by a 15-9 margin and out “out hit” the Coyotes by a 26-21 count, paced by Jordin Tootoo’s game-high 5 hits --- in fact, the entire Gaustad-Halischuk-Tootoo line was effective tonight, giving the Preds solid, physical shifts in all three periods.
1) NSH G Pekka Rinne – 32-save shutout;was great with the catching glove limiting rebound attempts; at his best on the PKs late in the third period
2) NSH F Martin Erat – 1 assist, +1; was the best skater all night for either team; strong on the puck, strong in 1-on-1 battles, creative passing, strong driving to the net; if not for some unlucky sequences around the crease could well have finished with three or four points tonight
3) NSH F Paul Gaustad – 68% (15-of-22) on draws; 4 hits, 3 blocked shots; 3:30 shorthanded ice time; excellent in 1-on-1 battles, key to PK (especially the third period 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 PKs)