The red-hot Phoenix Coyotes came into Nashville on Saturday night and took advantage of some of the Preds’ mistakes, winning their seventh in a row in a 3-2 victory. Dave Tippett and company got contributions from different players, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 30 saves.
In the process, the Predators lost Ryan Suter to an upper-body injury late in the second period when he was barreled into by Shane Doan on a questionable hit.
After a lackadaisical first period in which the Preds went the first 13 minutes without a shot, both teams came out in the second guns-a-blazing. Doan was stoned on a penalty shot just 10 seconds in, but Keith Yandle’s seeing-eye wrister found its way past a screened Pekka Rinne to put Phoenix up 1-0 at the 3:51 mark.
Fifty-eight seconds later, Taylor Pyatt roofed a shot past Rinne to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead. Pyatt got to the net too easily as he outworked two Predators on the play.
Nashville responded quickly, though, when Sergei Kostitsyn scored his 16th of the season at 6:37 of the second on the man advantage. He pounced on a Mike Fisher rebound from his knees and cut Phoenix’s lead in half.
At the end of the period, Suter was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with an official on the hit he took from Doan. Coach Barry Trotz wasn’t pleased with the hit, either.
“I had an issue on the hit on Suter – I think we’re trying to get these out of the game,” Trotz said. “Unsuspecting players – he wasn’t expecting that. The puck wasn’t around him.”
There was no update on Suter after the game.
Midway through the third, Lauri Korpikoski ripped a slap-shot by Rinne from the top of the circles to put the Coyotes up by two once again. Mike Fisher appeared to have cut the deficit to 3-2 with 7:32 to go, but the goal was waved off by a Shane O’Brien penalty just seconds before it was scored.
“That was the right call,” Trotz said. “He’s playing hard, he’s doing a good job on the PK. There are still moments like that penalty – you’ve got to have discipline, and tonight that cost us some time to maybe get it tied up.”
With 49 seconds to go, Shea Weber did cut the Coyotes’ lead to one with his 12th of the year on a slap-shot from the side boards. Fisher and Patric Hornqvist both had chances in the waning moments, but couldn’t beat Bryzgalov. Phoenix was outshot 32-26 in the game.
Cody Franson was one of many Preds that were frustrated in how the team performed in key situations.
“It’s our mistakes that gave them their three goals,” Franson commented. “They were easily preventable; it’s our own fault that we didn’t get points in this game. I’ll give them credit, but we made a couple mistakes that bit us.”
The Preds didn’t have many calls go their way tonight, and O’Brien was specifically puzzled with the high-sticking call that negated Fisher’s third period tally.
“(Derek) Morris sold it like I took his top row (of teeth) out,” O’Brien said. “I was driving to the net and it was accidental. I don’t think there was a mark on his face. The officials have a job to do – he sees my stick in his face and he has to call a penalty, but this is a man’s game… men against men.
“I didn’t think I got him that good; I was just trying to go to the net. I think he did a pretty good job of embellishing it… he’s a pretty good actor.”
One subplot to this game was the return of Jordin Tootoo, who was cleared by the NHL and NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. He commented on getting back in the lineup:
“It’s obviously great to be back playing,” Tootoo said. “I’m just excited to be part of the team again … I’m just looking forward to helping the team win games down the stretch.”
Tootoo and the Preds are back in action on Tuesday night in Columbus.