More Of The Same For Phoenix As They Take Game 1

The Phoenix Coyotes picked up right where they left off as they began play in the Western Conference semifinals at home last night against Nashville. They were outplayed up and down the ice. And goalie Mike Smith picked up where he left off, as he put the ‘Yotes on his back and carried them to a 4-3 win in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead.

Radim Vrbata was one Phoenix forward who got active early and throughout the game, getting five shots on goal and he cashed in an early chance off an assist from Ray Whitney. Before the period was out, Nashville had tied it up. In the second period, Phoenix’s Rotislav Klelsa scored early and had an assist late, each sandwiched around another Predators’ goal and the home team held a 3-2 lead in the final period.

At this point, Nashville launched a massive assault on Smith that was left unanswered by Phoenix. The Predators got 16 shots in the final period, compared to just one for the Coyotes. If you’ve been following Phoenix throughout these playoffs, you might wonder why I keep singing Smith’s praises so much when teams  seem to keep getting late game-tying goals against him—and they did again on Friday night, with less than five minutes left. It’s because if you put any goalie under this kind of fire, eventually one is going to slip through. Nashville got 42 shots for the game compared to Phoenix’s 24 and only an uncharacteristic off-night from Predator goalie Pekka Rinne prevented them from winning. As it was, Martin Erat scored on the power play to force overtime.

Smith’s 39 saves were able to keep Phoenix alive and Whitney came through early in the overtime session, scoring the game-winner.

Opening action in the second round continues today, and you can read the series previews of Washington-NY Rangers and Los Angeles-St. Louis.