Nashville’s suspended players made a return to the lineup in Phoenix on Monday night, but it didn’t matter. Nothing the Predators did could best Phoenix’s Mike Smith, who had an incredible series, particularly stumping the Predators in the final two games of the series.
The Predators played with the sense of urgency that is to be expected in an elimination game; they pressed on the forecheck and made every hit count. They pulled their defensemen up on offense and tried to put pressure on the Coyotes’ player and, in the process, more goals by Smith.
It simply was not to be.
For the second consecutive year, the Predators made it past round one. And for the second consecutive year, the Predators were taken out in round two. On a day in which it was announced that a tentative deal was in place with a new owner for the Phoenix Coyotes, on that would keep them in Phoenix, the Coyotes fans were treated to more good news: the Coyotes are advancing past round two.
Despite the difficult way that the season ended, it was still a positive one for the Predators. Defeating perrennial cup contender and fierce divisional rival Detroit Red Wings in round one (in an impressive five games at that) should not be overlooked simply in how the season ended. Nashville is clearly a franchise on the rise.
Early in the series it looked as if Nashville would be able to take control, but a back-breaking overitme loss ended up being very costly, as well as the outright dominance of Mike Smith. Phoenix goes on to face the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Before this series began, neither the Predators nor th Coyotes had ever been to the Conference Finals.
As for the game, it looked like it was destined to be the perfect follow-up to the intense goaltender battle we were treated to in game four. Although both goalies shined, there were a few more goals scored this time around.
The first period was tough. Both goalies were stopping everything–there was no score at all–and both teams came out aggressively. Phoenix didn’t want to go back to Nashville and the Predators didn’t want to be going home alone. Awesome playoff hockey.
The second period belonged to the Coyotes. Derek Morris scored the first goal for Phoenix, giving them the 1-0 lead. Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette assited on the goal. Martin Hanzel got the second goal for Poenix about eight minutes later, assisted by Kyle Chipchura and Daymond Langkow. The score was 2-0 Phoenix. Things did not look good for the Predators.
Nashville would cut the lead in half in the third period. At 14:01, Colin Wilson scored his first and only goal of the playoffs to make the game 2-1 Phoenix. He was assisted by David Legwand and Ryan Suter on the play.
Mike Smith recorded a whopping 32 saves in the game, to Pekka Rinne’s 15. Phoenix rode Smith all the way through the five games in this series and will continue to throughout the playoffs. His incredible play masked the mistakes made by their other players, as well as stuffing any opportunities the Predators had.
Smashville would like to wish the Coyotes the best of luck througout the rest of the playoffs. Here’s to next season finally being Nashville’s year.