There are all kinds of statistical measurements in a hockey game: goals against; PK percentage; Corsi; and others. One measure that is not quantified is "want to", how bad do you want to win a tough game. The Nashville Predators were lacking in "want to" for two periods, and it cost them in a 3-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena.
For two periods, the Coyotes kept the Nashville offense effectively off stride, limiting entrance to the offensive zone and thwarting chances once they were inside the zone. When Nashville did generate chances, Ilya Bryzgalov was very strong and cleaned up most of the opportunities that the Predators had.
After a scoreless first period which saw Nashville generate 4 shots and Phoenix just 5, the second period opened eventfully, with Alexander Sulzer hauling down Shane Doan on a breakaway. Doan was awarded a penalty shot just 10 seconds into the period, and he was stoned by Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.
Phoenix would seize the momentum and the advantage in the tight checking contest by potting two goals in just 58 seconds. Keith Yandle launched a shot from the blue line that looked like it was tipped and went past Rinne for the first tally of the contest. The goal was awarded to Yandle by the official scorer.
Less than a minute later, Taylor Pyatt walked out of the corner against Ryan Suter, who had lost his stick. Pyatt got past Suter and was uncontested as he skated just inside the face off circle. His wrist shot beat Rinne high over his shoulder to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
The Predators would cut the lead to one as Sergei Kostitsyn would tally on the power play at 6:37 of the second. Kostitsyn took a pass from Mike Fisher in the low slot and roofed a shot over Bryzgalov to make it 2-1 Coyotes.
Late in the second period, Ryan Suter was run behind the net by Shane Doan. Suter did not have the puck and took a serious hit from Doan, which should have been a penalty. Nothing was called on the play, but Suter was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as he chirped at referee Chris Lee. More importantly, Suter suffered an upper body injury on the play and did not return to the contest. His status is unknown, according to Head Coach Barry Trotz.
Lauri Korpikoski would wire a shot past Rinne at 7:32 of the third period to give the Coyotes a 3-1. lead. On the play, the Predators turned the puck over on a failed clearing attempt, setting up Korpikoski for what would be the eventual game winner.
Mike Fisher appeared to have cut the lead to 3-2 as he rifled a shot past Bryzgalov at 13:28 of the third. The goal was waved off however, as Shane O'Brien was called for high sticking as he drove to the net. The Predator fans were chagrined at the no goal call, but it was legitimate, as O'Brien got his stick up high on a Coyotes defenseman.
The Predators would cut the margin to one as Shea Weber would rip a shot past Bryzgalov at 19:10 for his 12th goal of the season.
It was too little too late.
For two periods, the Predators offensive effort was stymied by the very type of game they like to play. The Coyotes aggressive forecheck did not give the Predators an opportunity to establish offensive flow or speed in the neutral zone. The Coyotes did a good job for two periods of limiting the offensive flow of the Predators when they were in the zone. The Coyotes did to the Predators what the Predators had done to the Canucks in their previous game.
This was a "want to" game, a game whose winner would be determined by who wanted it more. Which team would answer the challenge of the other and would eventually exert their will. Tonight, it was the Coyotes that wanted the game more.
By no means am I implying the Predators quit. They did not. They just didn't want this game as much as the Coyotes did, and that was the difference.
This is the tough stretch run to the playoff positioning. There will be a lot of games that will call for the guys on the ice to muster up the extra effort, to do the tough things and the little detail things that determine the outcome of a contest. The take away from this game is that every game now is vital, every game is a war for two precious points.
And you have got to want to win those two points.
My three stars:
1. Ilya Bryzgalov
2. Lauri Korpikoski
3. Sergei Kostitsyn