The Nashville Predators dropped a 1-0 game to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Bridgestone Arena to fall behind in their series 3-1.
To say their backs are against the wall is an understatement.
The Predators offense was ineffective and rarely threatened Phoenix netminder Mike Smith. When they did threaten, Smith was equal to the task
The Coyotes Shane Doan scored at 14:25 of the first period as he went into the slot and fired a shot at Rinne that he got with his blocker, but it flipped over his shoulder, off Roman Josi, and into the net. for the only goal of the game.
The Phoenix defense made that goal stand up as they forechecked the life out of the Predators, rarely letting them come through the neutral zone with any speed, and one the Predators got into the offensive zone, choked the life out of them.
The Predators struggled to get any offensive rhythm because of the pressure the Coyotes put on the puck and throughout the game had more energy and jump than the Predators.
The offensive effort was disappointing to say the least, but give credit to the Coyotes for their play, because they ere better than the Predators tonight.
And therein lies the problem for the Predators. Their best offensive players were average and failed to create quality chances. It's telling that Colin Wilson, Marty Erat, Gabriel Bourque, and nick spaling all mustered just one shot on goal each. Jordin Tootoo, Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt Halischuk, and Paul Gaustad had none.
The Predators were 0-3 on the power play, as the Coyotes did a good job pressuring the puck and not letting the Predators get quality chances on Smith. The Predators did score on a power play late in the third period, but the goal was waved off as the officials struck with the dreaded "intent to blow" call.
The fact is that the Predators were outplayed throughout the contest. Rinne was exceptional, especially in the first period , stoning Mikkel Boedker alone in front of the net on one sequence. Frankly, without the strong play of Rinne, who seemed to be the only Predator ready to play, the score could have been much worse.
The Predators sat Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for the second straight game after their curfew violations before game 3. While many may second guess that decision, I concur with the call made by Head Coach Barry Trotz. The Predators squad on the ice tonight was the same one that played a dominant game 4 an captured a 2-0 victory. That squad that was so effective in game 4 did not come to play tonight.
The Predators have dug an immense hole. The task before them is monumental.
It is not insurmountable.
It will require each player that puts on the sweater Monday night to commit to win puck battles, to play balls to the wall on every shift.
Do that, and the series will come back to Nashville.
Fail to do so, and your backs will no longer be against the wall.
They will be out of the playoffs.
My three stars:
1: Mike Smith
2. Shane Doan
3. Pekka Rinne