Predators fend off tenacious Coyotes

Predators fend off tenacious Coyotes

GLENDALE, Arizona - Reuters
Predators fend off tenacious Coyotes

The Nashville Predators needed to overcome a shootout following a late comeback by the Phoenix Coyotes in a thrilling National Hockey League contest. AFP photo

The Nashville Predators squandered a two-goal lead before edging out the Phoenix Coyotes 5-4 in a shootout as two of the Western Conference’s playoff contenders turned up the intensity on Monday.

Nashville led 4-2 in the third period but were pegged back by goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Raffi Torres but the visitors battled through a scoreless overtime and prevailed in the sudden death decider.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all three Phoenix shootout attempts and finished with 31 saves to help the Predators (41-21-7) maintain a tight grip on fifth place in the conference.

“It’s disappointing at this point in the season to give up two late goals like that, but we didn’t get rattled and stayed focused and Andrei (Kostitsyn) made a great move in the shootout,” Rinne told reporters.

“After the game you win and wind up with two points and it doesn’t matter. You’re happy.”

Strong start
Kostitsyn recorded the lone shootout score to continue his strong start with his new team. He also added two assists and now has three goals and five assists in six games since being traded from Montreal.

Martin Erat put Nashville 1-0 ahead late in the first and Daymond Langkow tied the score early in the second before Mike Fisher put the road team back in front midway through the period.

Keith Yandle responded again for the Coyotes (34-25-11), who have lost six of seven games and are seventh in the West, but the Predators surged clear with goals from Francis Bouillon and Craig Smith.

Mike Smith made 31 saves in the loss. He was coming off a 42-save shutout against San Jose on Saturday.

The Coyotes now head out on a four-game road trip where they hope their latest close call will be a sign of better things to come.

“I give our guys full credit for coming back, digging in and finding a way to get a point,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.

“But we have to play tight hockey and not give away chances like we did tonight.”