Photo: The Arizona Republic
This may very well have been the best 60 minutes the Coyotes have played up this point in the playoffs.
After a struggle to generate offense at the end of game 1, the Phoenix Coyotes broke out for five goals in Game 2 Sunday night at Jobing.com Arena against the Nashville Predators, sewing up a 5-3 win and taking a 2-0 series lead to Nashville for Game 3.
"I would say this is the best 60 minutes we have played in the playoffs for sure," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. "[We were] solid throughout, and a lot of different elements of the game were really solid."
The offense was much better in Game 2. Whenever Nashville scored, Phoenix always had a quick answer.
"It's nice to see pucks start going in for us," said Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
The team looked good throughout, registering 39 shots on goal. The Coyotes had not had 30+ shots on goal in a game since Game 3 in the 1st round against Chicago.
And at the end, instead of playing a defensive game to allow Nashville back in, the Coyotes went for the jugular and limited the Predators chances, holding Nashville to nine shots in the 3rd period.
The Coyotes struck for the first goal, as Keith Yandle found Antoine Vermette on the doorstep to push the puck past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead.
The Predators would respond at the 17:13 mark of the 1st period. As he was falling to the ice, Kevin Klein backhanded the puck to Andrei Kostitsyn who was going to the net. Kostitsyn beat Smith to tie the game at 1.
Phoenix would get its answer three minutes and 47 seconds into the 2nd period. Radim Vrbata faked a wrap around, and instead passed the puck to Martin Hanzal in front of the net, who beat Rinne and gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead.
It was Vrbata who would give the Coyotes a 3-1 lead. The puck was floating in the air when David Legwand of the Predators appeared to have swatted the puck to the ice in front of the cage. Rinne was out of position going for the puck and eventually ended up on his back. Vrbata found the puck in front and easily went top-shelf to score the Coyotes third goal of the night.
Nashville responded just over the halfway mark of the 2nd. On the power play, Ryan Suter's shot was deflected in front by Patric Hornqvist to bring the Preds within 1.
The Coyotes momentum quickly came back 30 seconds later. A Shane Doan shot from the right wing ricocheted off of Rinne and right to Taylor Pyatt who buried the puck past the Nashville goaltender, putting the Coyotes up by two goals.
In the 3rd period, Nashville had a 4 on 3 power play opportunity that they cashed in on when Ryan Suter's shot from the right circle deflected off of Smith's shoulder and into the net.
But once again, the Coyotes would respond. A Derek Morris shot changed direction off the stick of Shane Doan in front and sailed into the goal, once again putting the Coyotes up by two goals...this time for good.
"[Nashville] got that goal early in the third on the power play, but we were able to get it back and get going again," said Doan.
Both teams took four penalties and Nashville finally got its power play on the right track, going 2/4 with the man advantage, but it was not enough to beat the Coyotes.
With the win, the Coyotes have a 2-0 series lead for the first time since 1987 when the then Winnipeg Jets took a 2-0 series lead over the Calgary Flames.
"[Phoenix] capitalized on the [home-ice] advantage," said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz. "Now they come into our house and we have to do our job and get Game 3."
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Nashville. The Coyotes are 3-0 on the road in the playoffs this year, having taken all three games in Chicago during round 1.
NOTE: Of the five games played so far at Jobing.com Arena during the 2012 playoffs, Sunday night's Game 2 was the first that did not go into overtime.
Insight from the Press Box: The sellout crowd of 17,217 got a show tonight. They finally saw the Phoenix Coyotes play a complete hockey game. Too much in the playoffs, Phoenix has had to rely on Mike Smith while the rest of the team played prevent at the end of the game, trying to hold on to a lead. But Sunday night had a different vibe. Quick answers from the Coyotes offense curbed any momentum Nashville had during the last two periods. The Predators were stifled, and Phoenix did not back down from its offensive attack in the 3rd period. You could not have asked for a better Game 2 from this Coyotes team. I am very interested to see how the Predators respond is Game 3. It is a must win for the Predators.