The Predators once again scored three goals on Mike Smith. Once again, it was not enough.
Uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns proved costly in the Predators’ 5-3 loss tonight in Phoenix in Game Two. Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata led the way for the Coyotes, each tallying two points, as they took a 2-0 series lead with the win.
The game started very similarly to Game One. The Coyotes carried the play for much of the first 10-15 minutes, scoring 8:32 into the first period when Keith Yandle found a wide open Antoine Vermette backdoor to go ahead 1-0. They continued to put the pressure on the Predators on a subsequent power play chance.
The Predators weathered that storm and had a push of their own to close out the period. Andrei Kostitsyn provided the tying goal with 2:47 left in the first. Kostitsyn scored on a half-breakaway thanks to a strong defensive play by Nick Spaling and a beautiful spin-o-rama pass from Kevin Klein.
However, the Predators’ back end had a meltdown in the second period.
Less than four minutes into the middle frame, Vrbata out-waited Pekka Rinne to bring the goaltender out of his net. Vrbata then found a trailing Martin Hanzal to put the Coyotes up 2-1. Over three minutes later, Vrbata pushed the Coyotes ahead by two when he capitalized on David Legwand’s mistake of literally throwing the puck into the slot with a lot of traffic in the crease.
A power play chance helped the Predators settle down and bring the score back within one, as Patric Hornqvist tipped a point shot from Ryan Suter past Mike Smith. It was Hornqvist’s first goal of the postseason.
Thirty seconds later, another defensive breakdown led to another Coyotes goal. Shane Doan’s shot was stopped by Rinne, but Alexander Radulov and Klein failed to clear the puck. Taylor Pyatt pounced on the rebound to give the Coyotes a 4-2 lead at the 11:50 mark of the second.
The Predators found some life again 53 seconds in the third period when Suter scored on the power play to make it 4-3. They showed some good puck movement and zone time leading up to Suter’s goal. The power play converted on both opportunities tonight.
It didn’t take long for the Coyotes to answer back, though. Derek Morris’ shot from the blue-line was nicely re-directed by Doan in front to put Phoenix ahead by a score of 5-3. The Predators didn’t have much of a push-back after that goal, and the Coyotes went on to win by two to take a two-game series lead.
As the series shifts to Nashville this week, Phoenix holds a 2-0 series lead and is in full command.