The Phoenix Coyotes are within one game of the Western Conference Final after a 1-0 win in Game Four at Nashville Friday.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan scored the only goal on a backhand in traffic at 14:25 of the first period. Predators G Pekka Rinne stopped 23 of 24 shots faced, while Phoenix G Mike Smith stopped all 25 shots sent his way. Smith is proving to be the difference in the series, posting a .937 save percentage in the first four games.
It was a night for the Coyotes to lock down defensively and that they did, despite some late pressure by the Predators that came close, but failed to yield the tying goal. Veteran C Daymond Langkow led the Coyotes with four blocked shots while playing just 10:29.
In a game in which the Predators had enough chances to score at least one goal, but couldn't find the net, there will naturally be criticism heaped on Predators coach Barry Trotz for keeping Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn on the sidelines. Once the message was sent in Game Three that curfew violations would not be tolerated and Nashville won the game without them, the Predators didn't alter their lineup.
Now that they are down three games to one and heading to Phoenix for Game Five, the Predators should see fit to include, at the very least, Radulov, the team's leading playoff scorer.
No matter what the Predators' brass is trying to get across about team rules, they need to score more goals and the way to do that is to get their most skilled players in the lineup. Down 3-1 in the series, there is no longer any margin for error and Nashville can hope that their disciplined players return to action with more focus and motivation now that the season is on the line. The truth is, the Predators need something and it might as well be the return of skilled forwards to the lineup.