In a battle between two teams that are surprisingly vying for playoff positioning, the Nashville Predators fell to the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 at Jobing.com Arena. Despite pouring 43 shots on goal, the Predators could only put two pucks past Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
After Phoenix took a 1-0 lead early in the second period, Nashville answered with a goal by Patric Hornqvist, his 20th of the year. Hornqvist continues to impress with his courage and work around the net. He was able to gather in a rebound and bank a shot off the back of Bryzgalov to tie the game. At the start of the season, how many Predator fans would have imagined the production we would have gotten from Hornqvist? He has been consistently impressive.
Just :40 seconds later, Ed Jovanoski turned the puck over and Marty Erat made the Coyotes pay, depositing the puck in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead. The game would remain tied going into the third period.
In the third, the Predators gave up three goals, all to former Predator Scottie Upshall. Failing to control the third, the Predators dropped a critical contest to the Coyotes. Both teams entered the contest with 61 points, and by virtue of the win, the Coyotes move into fourth place in the West, and the Predators drop to fifth.
The disappointing aspects of this game are that the Predators could not control play in the third period, and that some of Nashville's big guns have turned invisible. Going in to the third in a hostile environment and with the lead, the Predators wilted under the pressure of the Coyotes. Failing to get pucks past Bryzgalov seemed to energize the Coyotes, and they turned that energy into goals against the Predators. Phoenix exerted pressure and capitalized on their chances; Nashville exerted pressure but couldn't score.
The disappearance of players like Arnott and Sullivan is problematic for this team. These players have to start heating up offensively. Right now, they are cold. This cannot continue- these guys are too important to the offense to be as quiet as they are. It has been great to get the production from the third and fourth lines- that's a bonus for this team. The first line has to be consistently productive, and outside of Hornqvist, they have been erratic.
It gets no easier for the Predators. They have Colorado on Friday night. The Western Conference is going to be a dogfight. Time for the big dogs of the Predators to start playing like big dogs. No losing streaks. No quit. No backing down when you have the lead.
Put this one behind you, boys, and get back to your winning ways in Denver.