The injury riddled and struggling Nashville Predators journeyed to the Arizona desert to take on the Phoenix Coyotes in the first game of the a west coast swing. The struggles continued for the Predators as they dropped their third straight game by a score of 4-3
The disturbing aspect of this loss is that the Predators lead the game 3-2 going into the third period and failed to hold the lead, giving up two power play goals to a weak Coyotes power play.
The Predators also managed to make Ed Jovanovski look like the second coming of Wayne Gretzky as Jovo got the hat trick against the Predators.
Jovanovski opened the scoring for the Coyotes just 1:08 into the first period as he fired a shot from the point that got past a partially screened Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.
The Predators tied the game at 8:58 of the first as Francis Buillon walked off the half wall and wristed a shot past Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Predators would take a 2-1 lead just 30 seconds later as Sergei Kostitsyn took a pass from Jordin Tootoo and fought off a Coyotes defenseman and, running out of rink and room, flipped a shot past Bryzgalov glove side. That goal was a beauty and was attributable to Kostitsyn not giving up on the play.
Jovanovski would strike again at 1:08 of the second period as he took a shot off the boards that appeared to hit a stick and ramped up over the shoulder of Rinne.
Amazingly, the Coyotes missed several attempts at an open net as Rinne was scrambling all night and was occasionally caught out of the net. Fortunately for the Predators, the defensive checking thwarted most of those opportunities. Unfortunately for the Predators, Rinne looked skittish all night and was not as sharp as he usually is.
Nashville would once again regain the lead at 12:44 of the second period as Patrick Hornqvist was in his "office" at the top of the crease and poked a rebound of a Colin Wilson shot past Bryzgalov while the Predators were on the power play.
That lead would stand until 4:23 of the third period when Lee Stempniak would tie the game on the power play. Nick Spaling was called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass. It appeared that there was simultaneous contact between Spaling's stick and the stick of a Coyotes player. It didn't matter whether the call was accurate or not as the Predators could not kill the the power play. This would prove the Predators undoing in this game.
Jovanovski got his hat trick at 5:38 of the third period on the power play (again!) with Cody Franson in the box for holding the stick. Jovo snuck in from the back side and wristed a shot on net. Rinne got a good piece of the puck, but could not control it and it squirted into the net for the game winner.
The Predators had a glorious opportunity to take a 2 goal lead early in the third period as Steve Sullivan found himself alone in front of the net . He beat Bryzgalov high glove side but rang the shot off the crossbar. That summed up the Predators effort in the third period. They did not mount much in the way of consistent offensive effort and when they did have chances, could not finish.
This is a painful loss for the Predators. Failing to kill penalties, less than stellar goaltending, and inability to create offense in the third period lead to this loss.
Marcel Goc returned to the lineup, along with Frankie Buillon. Both contributed quality efforts tonight. The Predators are still without Ryan Suter, Matthew Lombardi, and now Marty Erat due to injuries.
This team has to now regroup and get back to the basics of winning hockey. This team cannot skate with an attitude of "not to lose". They have to skate to win. Right now, this team is not doing that.
The Predators have to right the ship and commit themselves to Predator hockey. Injuries cannot be a crutch.
The road trip continues. It's time to refocus, regroup, and start winning.
No more struggling.
No more painful losses.
My three stars of the game:
1. Ed Jovanovski
2. Sergei Kostitsyn
3. Francis Buillon