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Nashville Predators 3, Arizona Coyotes 2: Turris Line and Rinne Keep Preds Winning

The Predators won a game in Arizona!

NHL: Nashville Predators at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes entered tonight’s game having won 11 of their last 16 games and only 12 of the 53 before then, fighting their way to the right side of the shot-share battle for almost the first time all season over that winning stretch. Between their improved play and the Predators’ perpetual struggles in Glendale, this wasn’t going to be the easy game that you might expect from a team last in the conference that had just been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

(Spoiler alert: this team managed to win it anyway.)

The Predators decided to split up their defense pairings, reuniting Alexei Emelin and P.K. Subban as well as Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis, leaving Roman Josi to play not with former Team Switzerland defense partner Yannick Weber (who joined the “maintenance” list), but instead with fellow lefty Tony Bitetto. It was a weird choice.

The Coyotes started the game with a strong push. In spite of that, Kyle Turris seemed to have scored less than four minutes into the game after his linemates did a great job creating space, but despite his best efforts he was offside on the play and the goal didn’t stand. The Predators responded well to the call, turning up the pressure and getting some good chances in the Coyotes’ end, but to no avail.

Bitetto took the first penalty of the night, in a defensive-zone scramble. The Coyotes missed the net on a couple of great looks early on, but although they didn’t give up any shorthanded chances they also didn’t score. Pekka Rinne made some sharp saves to help his team escape. The period ended with some 4-on-4 hockey with Craig Smith and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the box after a scuffle by the Predators’ bench, but no score for either team.

The Predators got an early power play in the second. The Coyotes’ penalty kill played it aggressively, getting some clears and some zone time of their own, including a shorthanded rush chance and a great entry just as the power play was ending, broken up by Scott Hartnell. Unfortunately, right after that the Coyotes scored a goal of their own, and that one counted.

Moments later, Ellis evened the score with a clever play off a great cross-slot pass from Smith. Rinne made an important save on a 4v2 to keep the score even, and the Preds started to push back again. The Coyotes have been owning the raw shot share almost all night, though the Predators have had much better chances.

Kevin Fiala got tripped skating the puck into the offensive zone with no call, then Turris lost the puck at center ice after a really blatant trip with no call. Derek Stepan (I think) rang iron on that chance--really lucky bounce for both the Predators and the refs there.

Right after that sequence of inexplicable non-calls, Colton Sissons got sent to the box for being cross-checked into Darcy Kuemper by an Arizona defender and then whacked at a couple of times by Kuemper. The Predators’ penalty kill took the ice ready for vengeance and got some shorthanded zone time of their own, but no joy, and Ekman-Larsson scored as the power play was expiring to put the Coyotes back on top. Really unlucky sequence for both the Predators and the refs there.

The Preds entered the third period down 1-2 despite owning 5v5 chances and expected goals. They’ve been peppering Kuemper with shots from right around the paint all night. He’s been having a great season, but this performance is borderline ridiculous.

Kyle Turris evened the game again less than thirty seconds into the third period off another great sequence from his line. This time, it wasn’t offside. Unfortunately, right after that Hartnell put the Preds back on the penalty kill with a blatant and unnecessary hold. The penalty kill was nervewracking, but they got it done, and then Fiala gave the Predators their first legal lead of the night with a goal off the faceoff. Fifteen minutes and change left in regulation.

Naturally, seconds later, the Predators decided it was time for an abysmal line change, but they killed off the penalty successfully and drew one of their own shortly after. Then they drew another of their own very shortly after. Then they failed to pad their lead on the extended 5v3. Then they took another penalty, because why play 5v5 when you can not do that?

The Predators killed off the penalty but the Coyotes kept up the pressure for an agonizingly long sequence before the Preds were able to get a clear. Gold drafting would make this game a lot more meaningful for both teams—the Coyotes are clearly playing to win tonight, and they’re (hopefully) a young team on the rise, but the very best playing well can do for them under the current system right now is worsen their draft odds.

The Preds held on for the regulation win, giving Rinne his tenth in a row and helping the Coyotes get closer to Rasmus Dahlin. A good night for everyone in the desert!

Random Observations

  • Seriously, those defense pairings. What.
  • This may be the first challenge I’ve ever seen on a play that’s actually offside to the naked eye. The offside challenge was implemented almost two full seasons ago.
  • Great shift by the Fiala-Turris-Smith line in response.
  • Preds to the box.
  • Well, that save—Rinne falling over backward with the puck somewhere unknown—just woke me right up.
  • The Four Aces? That’s less apocalyptic than Horsemen, I guess. Which is which?
  • Tony B and Alexei E are definitely the two defensemen I expected to be conspicuous on the attack this game. Yep. For sure.
  • Referee T.J. Luxmore just elbowed Ekman-Larsson in the face, drawing blood. If there was ever a time for a “Ref, you suck!” chant this is surely it.
  • (There was no “Ref, you suck” chant.)
  • Still awake?
  • Kuemper seems about as fond of Hartman as the rest of the league does.
  • Have the Preds spent any of this power play in the offensive zone? Any at all?
  • I’m not saying goal songs that just go “da da da” can’t be good, but the one the Coyotes have isn’t.
  • This is not a great response shift.
  • That’s more like it!
  • I wonder how many of Ellis’s goals since his return have been game-tying or go-ahead goals.
  • Fiala-Turris-Smith is flying.
  • Are we just not calling tripping anymore?
  • Time to see how this Preds team responds to giving up a goal on a bad call. Go get it back, boys.
  • Bread shaped. Everyone still awake?
  • What a start to the period!
  • Someone needs to tell Scott Hartnell that just because the Preds’ PK has outscored the Preds’ PP over the last however many games it’s been doesn’t mean he should take penalties for funsies.
  • Fiala!!! That line is both fire and money, but not money that’s on fire.
  • This is an even worse time for a penalty than the last time they took a penalty.
  • I guess we’ll never find out whether the Coyotes’ game ops would have broken out the saxophone if it had taken a while for Josi to find that puck.
  • Phoenix penalty? Phoenix?
  • Defining moment!
  • Undefined.
  • Ellis has been really good tonight.
  • Oh man, Fiala.
  • Coyotes should have pulled Kuemper a while ago, really.
  • Rinne!
  • So. Much. Icing. I could open a pastry shop. I don’t want to open a pastry shop.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game

  1. Kyle Turris: Points on all three goals, and tried really really hard to score a fourth.
  2. Ryan Ellis: Fantastic on both sides of the puck tonight.
  3. Kevin Fiala: He could have had a hat trick tonight and I wouldn’t have questioned it. He was creating everywhere.

Honorable mention to Pekka Rinne, who was also excellent, and to all of you who stayed up until the end of the game.

Tweets of the Night

Game Extras

Game Recap

Natural Stat Trick