It was as grim as the Phoenix Coyotes' postseason hopes, which
are now out of their hands.
"The roller-coaster continues," the Phoenix coach said. "It's where
The Nashville Predators applied the latest blow on Thursday night,
handing the skidding Coyotes their sixth straight loss with a 2-0
shutout at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
Center Craig Smith and right winger Patric Hornqvist each bagged
their 21st goals and goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 29 shots for his
second shutout as Nashville (36-32-12) improved to 7-1-2 in its last
Phoenix fell to 36-29-15 and stayed two points behind Dallas for the
last Western Conference playoff spot with two games left. But the
Stars, who have more wins, can eliminate the Coyotes with a victory
over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.
After starting 14-4-3 and remaining in a comfortable playoff
position most of the season, the Coyotes have slumped at the worst
possible time. With injuries costing them key players, they have
scored only seven goals in their losing streak.
"It's not a very comfortable position," Phoenix defenseman Michael
Stone said. "We've been getting some points, but we're not getting
the extra point."
There were no points from this one as Phoenix followed a solid first
10 minutes by doing next to nothing until the third period. It
failed to put a shot on Rinne for the first 16:20 of the second
By then, the Predators scored the only goal they would need. With
center Rob Klinkhammer in the box for an offensive-zone minor — he
high-sticked defenseman Ryan Ellis at 8:37 of the second period — Smith took Ellis' pass and whipped a 39-foot wrister past goalie
Thomas Griess at 10:26.
"The try was certainly there," Tippett said, "but we weren't
generating any speed and didn't have many chances to score."
Chasing the game in the final 20 minutes, the Coyotes peppered Rinne
(9-10-3) with 15 shots. But the Finnish netminder stopped them all,
including a point-blank save on left winger Mikkel Boedker during a
late power play that had Phoenix players slumping their shoulders in
frustration during a stoppage.
It was the 162nd career win for Rinne, allowing him to pass Tomas
Vokoun for the franchise's career lead.
"It feels good," Rinne said. "It had a lot of meaning, too. It was a
huge game for them."
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Nashville tacked on an insurance goal at 9:21 as Hornqvist stuffed
the rebound of his shot past Griess at the goal-mouth for his
seventh goal in six games, allowing him to tie Smith and defenseman
Shea Weber for the team lead.
The Predators were eliminated from playoff consideration with a
shootout loss in Dallas on Tuesday night but clearly suffered no
letdown with nothing at stake save for contractual obligations and
"There were no passengers on the bus tonight," Predators coach Barry
Meanwhile, all Phoenix can do is sweat out a fretful Friday and hope
St. Louis can give it a chance to make its last two games — the
Coyotes host the San Jose Sharks and the Stars on Saturday and
Sunday night, respectively — meaningful.
"We put ourselves in a bad spot," Coyotes right winger and team
captain Shane Doan said. "We've got to be ready for our last two
games and hopefully, we have a chance."
Griess (9-8-5) finished with 21 saves.
NOTES: Phoenix RW Martin Erat played in his 800th NHL game but his
first in Bridgestone Arena as a visitor. Erat, who was drafted by
Nashville in the seventh round in 1999, played 723 games with the
Predators before being traded to Washington last April. He was dealt
to the Coyotes on March 4. ... Nashville has four 20-goal scorers (C
Mike Fisher, RW Patric Hornqvist, C Craig Smith and D Shea Weber)
for the first time since the 2007-08 season. ... Phoenix G Mike
Smith missed his eighth straight game with a lower-body injury. D
David Schlemko and C Martin Hanzal also sat out with lower-body
injuries. ... Predators D Roman Josi is one of two NHL defensemen
with three shootout goals this season. St. Louis D Kevin Shattenkirk
is the other.
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