The Predators faced the Coyotes in Jobing.com Arena in a battle between the 4th and 5th place teams in the Western Conference that could be a preview of the first round of the playoffs. If this game is any indication for the Predators, we might want a different first round opponent as the Coyotes whipped the Predators 5-2.
The game started well for the Predators as Shea Weber scored the second fastest goal in the history of the franchise with a laser from the blue line that blew past Coyote netminder Ilya Bryzgalov just :12 seconds into the contest.
That advantage would last just 1:54 as Lauri Korpikoski caught the Predators in a bad change and broke in alone down the middle of the ice and beat Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne with a nice backhand move through the five hole. A sloppy change caught the Predators vulnerable, and the Coyotes made them pay.
A second sloppy play that resulted in a defensive breakdown in the second period put the Predators behind. Wojtek Wolski was lurking at the blue line while the Predators were in the Coyote zone. Once the Coyotes took possession of the puck, Wolski broke through the neutral zone and took a great pass from Keith Yandle. Francis Buillon was chasing Wolski and missed an attempt at breaking up the pass, leaving Wolski alone on the break away. Wolski buried the shot over the shoulder of Rinne stick side to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead.
The Predators finally ended their power play futility at 5:53 of the third period as Steve Sullivan gathered in a rebound of a Cody Franson shot and beat Bryzgalov to tie the game at 2. This was Sully's 17th goal of the season, and it is going to be important for him to heat up as the Predators move into the playoffs.
The Coyotes regained the lead at 10:36 of the third period as Taylor Pyatt was alone in the low slot and beat Rinne with a shot that I'm certain Rinne would like to have back. The unfortunate thing about this goal is that Pyatt was completely uncovered in the slot. Another defensive breakdown, another score.
The Coyotes stretched the lead to two as Shane Doan scored off a deflection. This was Doan's first score in 24 games.
Petteri Nokelainen would seal the deal with an empty netter with :19 seconds remaining to make the final score 5-2.
For the Predators, this was a generally sloppy effort tonight. Defensive breakdowns, poor coverage, and a lack of mental focus cost them a potential two points. Not exactly how you want to play as you get ready to head to the playoffs.
Predator fans will be waiting anxiously about news on Patric Hornqvist. he was slashed in front of the net and then hit with a Shea Weber shot all on the same play. He left the game after only ten shifts with an upper body injury.
This game proves that the Predators have to be focused and play solid hockey to compete with a playoff caliber team. Tonight, they did neither.
The Predators have one more game at home on Saturday night to right the ship and hit the playoffs in stride. The playoffs are certain. The level of play of this team, based on tonight's performance, isn't.
You know what it takes to compete and to win. You didn't bring that to the rink tonight.You were sloppy and unfocused. That has to change.
Let's get this team back on track. Let's go into the playoffs confident and focused.
Let's play some Predator hockey.