GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 07: Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 after defeating the Nashville Predators in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on May 7, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Predators 2-1 to win the series 4 games to 1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Bring On The Kings!

Smith, defense key historic victory; Coyotes keep going where they've never gone before.

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Believe! Coyotes Top Predators 2-1, Win Series 4-1 And Move On

The Phoenix Coyotes are headed to the NHL Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history after their 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the semifinals Monday night at Arena.

Phoenix won the series with Nashville 4-1. Goaltender Mike Smith recorded 32 saves and the Coyotes showed determination and desire to put away the Predators, scoring twice and defending well, especially in the last six minutes of the game when Nashville pressed for a tying goal.

If it seems strange to say that the Coyotes are in the final four of the NHL, it is. This is a team that didn't have a full-time owner the past three seasons. Year after year, players, coaches and staff wondered if they'd even be in Arizona to play another season.

And on a night when prospective new owner Greg Jamison was in town announce a preliminary agreement to buy the Coyotes and see firsthand just what he will be getting, the Coyotes put on a show for Jamison, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and a sellout crowd.

"It's been hard being a Phoenix Coyotes fan the last few years," captain Shane Doan, an original Coyote, said, unable to keep a grin off his face.

It isn't now. If wasn't a madhouse before, it's about to be crazy when the next Whiteout takes place -- to be announced. Winning one round was historic. Winning a second round series was downright crazy given the history of this franchise. Imagine what could happen if the Coyotes somehow do it again?

"Ultimately, our players recognize that if we win, it's good for everybody: coaches, trainers, management, Glendale, Phoenix," Coyotes coacg Dave Tippett said." Our players have done an unbelievable job at focusing on the task at hand and what they can control, and that is to play well."

Goals by Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal (see videos below, from NBC Sports Network telecast) were all the offense the home team needed. Smith was strong once again, as he has been all season and even more so in the playoffs.

The Coyotes killed off four Predators' power plays. But the whole arena got nervous when Colin Wilson redirected a David Legwand pass into the net past Smith with 5:59 to play in the game.

From there, it was hang-on time, as the Predators rushed the net in an effort to force overtime. Goalie Pekka Rinne exited with about 41 seconds to play, but the Coyotes cleared the puck twice and time expired.

"By no means do we feel we've accomplished anything," Doan told NBC Sports. "But we're halfway there."

Cue up the Bon Jovi.

The Coyotes will host the Los Angeles Kings, who are the hottest team in the NHL after sweeping the St. Louis Blues and made history by winning series against the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the playoffs. The Kings are the eighth seed from the West.


Smith Stops Everything, Coyotes Give Him Offensive Support

The Phoenix Coyotes found themselves 20 minutes away from another chapter in franchise history, thanks to goals by Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal in the second period and more saves from goalie Mike Smith, who just won't let the Nashville Predators get one by him.

And poor Carrie Underwood has a concerned look on her pretty face as her Predators (and husband Mike Fisher) are looking at their season being over. It's 2-0 Phoenix going into the third period.

The challenge is now to hang onto the lead, and the Coyotes have given up such advantages before in the playoffs. But the extra goal cushion certainly helps.

At the 3:45 mark of the period, Shane Doan had an opportunity on a breakaway but had his shot stopped by Pekka Rinne. The Coyotes retained possession of the puck, and at 3:54, Morris tried a slap shot that Rinne got a piece of but couldn't keep out of the net.

Smith increased his save total to 22 and stopped a shot by Andrei Kostitsyn at 9:41 of the period. The Predators don't have a history of success when allowing the game's first goal -- they're 0-4 in the playoffs when their opponent scores first.

The Coyotes defense has also played well in support of Smith, getting back to deflect shots and clear the puck.

Hanzal's important goal was his third of the playoffs. Adrian Aucoin is out of the game and is being evaluated, according to the Coyotes.


Coyotes Vs. Predators Game 5: Scoreless After One

The Nashville Predators aren't rolling over despite being down 3-1 in their NHL playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Preds had more scoring chances and put a lot of pressure on the home team, hoping a fast start will help them avoid elimination for at least one more night.

Nashvile, down 3-1 to the Coyotes, outshot Phoenix 10-5 in first period shots on goal. The shots of best quality came from Patric Hornqvist and Shea Weber.

At 15:15 of the period, the Coyotes David Schlemko let fire from distance, but Predators goalie Pekka Rinne stopped it.

Martin Hanzal was whistled for roughing with 2:15 to play in the period, but the Predators couldn't capitalize on the man advantage.

This is nothing new. The Predators have struggled to score during the series and are 3-for-16 on power plays during this postseason.

The Coyotes need to turn up the heat on offense in order to lock up this series and advance to the conference finals. They can't count on the goalkeeping of Mike Smith to carry them the rest of this game, especially with the Predators playing with nothing but their season to lose.


2012 NHL Playoffs: Predators Vs. Coyotes Game 5 Preview

The Phoenix Coyotes will be looking to end the Nashville Predators season Monday night in a crucial Game 5 at Arena.

The big news going into the game is the suspension of Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla. Klesla was suspended one game by the NHL for his boarding incident against Matt Halischuk in Game 4.

The NHL senior vice president for player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan explained the controversial suspension.

"While we would not always classify a player who knows he is in race for a puck as defenseless," Shanahan said, "on this hit, Halischuk becomes unable to defend himself when Klesla grabs his jersey and tugs him backward (before shoving him into the boards)."

On the Nashville bench, it's expected that suspended forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov will return to the lineup. The duo were suspended one game for violating team rules, and then were marked as healthy scratches for Game 4.

"I'm happy to go back to the lineup," Kostitsyn said after Sunday's practice. "I'll try to do the best for my team and help my team tomorrow night.

The Coyotes are hoping clinch a spot in the Western Conference Finals, but they understand that Nashville will not go down without a fight.

"Obviously, you're both very, very desperate. I think it's whoever makes less mistakes. I know they're going to come real, real hard," Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris said after practice Sunday. "We've got to do a good job defending, and then when momentum swings our way we've got to do a real good job in their zone. So, both games are hard to win and lose."

Start time: 7:00 p.m. PST

Television: NBC Sports Network (Nationally)

Radio: XTRA Sports 910

Team Sites: Five For Howling is the place for Coyotes fans. Predators fans should check out On The Forecheck.


Mike Smith Blanks Predators 1-0, Coyotes Take 3-1 Series Lead

When you have a goaltender like Mike Smith, you only need one goal to win a game.

After Pekka Rinne's outstanding shutout performance in Wednesday's Game 3, Smith came out with an equally impressive shutout of his own in Game 4.

Smith would stop 25 shots against the Nashville Predators Friday night and propel his team to a 3-1 series lead.

The only goal of the game came off the stick of Coyote captain Shane Doan in the first period. Doan would catch a pass from Mikkel Boedker in the corner and drive towards the slot. Doan would then rip a backhand through traffic, off the post and past Rinne.

It was Doan's third goal of the 2012 NHL postseason.

There was a moment of panic for the Coyotes with 7:12 remaining in the game after the puck sneak passed Smith, but the officials waved it off because the whistle blew before it passed the goal line.

Patric Hornqvist managed only three shots on goal against the Coyotes, but he accounted for many more scoring chances. It seemed like every time the Predators were in the offensive zone he would end up on top of Smith, or in the net with him.

In a post-game interview when Smith was asked how the team keeps winning these close games, he chuckled and simply said, "Coyote ugly."

The Coyotes will have a chance to closeout the series with the Predators Monday on home ice at Arena.


2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Predators Look To Even Series At 2-2 With Coyotes

Game 4's are always so crucial. The Phoenix Coyotes can either take a commanding 3-1 lead Friday night at Bridgestone arena, or open the door for the Nashville Predators to come back and even up the series at 2-2.

"They came hard right off the bat and I think the first period they forced us into a few mistakes and they were opportunistic with it," forward Antoine Vermette said. "It was a tight game, we had some chances but it was something you should expect from them playing desperate in front of their fans. It's 2-1 now and we've got to move forward; we expect a tight series and tomorrow is a great opportunity for us to go home with a 3-1 lead which would be nice."

The situation is something the Coyotes are familiar with. In the Coyotes' first round matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks, they won Game 4 and eventually finished the Hawks off in six games.

Coach Dave Tippett knows the implications of Game 4, and wants his team to have an opportunity to closeout the series on home ice.

"Every game is one of those games that can control your destiny. We got the two at home, we've given the one up and now we've got to look for a split. If we can get that win, you're going home with a chance to close out the series."

The Predators got back to their defensive style in Game 3 and were carried by defenseman Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. The duo logged nearly 60 minutes of ice time combined during the teams 2-0 win Wednesday.

"We gotten a lot back to our character and our identity. We're a lot closer but I think we still need to get better, have tighter gaps, and shut their speed down," Weber told the media Thursday.

Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, two players the Predators added late in the season to bolster their offense, stole the headlines before Game 3. It was revealed that the duo violated unspecific team rules and would have to serve one-game, team mandated suspensions, with further discipline possible.

The team won for the first time in the series during their absence, and coach Trotz was then faced to make the tough decision to stay with the lineup who won, or to bring the forwards back from suspension for Game 4.

It was announced at the Friday morning skate that the two soviet-born players would remain on the sideline for Game 4.

"They're ready and will do whatever it takes to get back in, if it means having to sit this game or the next game or whatever, as long as we're winning they're OK," Trotz said.

Radulov is the Predators' top scorer in the postseason with six points, Kostitsyn has three goals, tied for the team lead.

Radulov continues to support his teammates though.

"The team played well. Pekks [Pekka Rinne] played really good. Guys defensively battled hard. It was nice to watch. They really showed the team effort. It's really good to be back in the series and [I'm] just looking forward to the next game."

The puck drops at 4:30 p.m. PST Friday in Nashville, and can be see nationally on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).


Coyotes Set Playoff High In Goals, Grab 2-0 Series Lead

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes sit two wins away from a spot in the NHL Western Conference Finals after their 5-3 in over the Nashville Predators Sunday night at Arena.

Let that sink in.

Already in a place they've never been, having never won a playoff series as the Phoenix Coyotes, the Desert Dogs can almost smell it. They'll certainly head to Opryland with a sweep on their minds after surviving two power play goals but getting a complete team effort in victory.

"Everybody to a man was focused on how we were going to play better (than Game 1)," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We really had a concerted push through the lineup."

The Coyotes, for only the second time in eight playoff games this month, finished the job in regulation time and not overtime. Antoine Vermette (in photo below), Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Taylor Pyatt and Shane Doan scored goals as the Coyotes came up with the most goals they've had in any playoff game this year.


The Coyotes outshot the Predators 39-33 despite giving up the two power play scores. The had an answer for every time the Preds either tied the score or cut the lead to one.

Doan was credited with a goal at 3:36 of the third when he deflected a shot from teammate Derek Morris. That came not three minutes after the Predators made it 4-3 on a goal by Ryan Suter.

Nashville emptied the net in a final push with a minute to play, but the Coyotes withstood a couple of senseless cross checks near their goal by Predators players (one was actually called a penalty) and sent their fans home early.

Phoenix heads to Music City having won twice there during the regular season.

"It's only two games," Hanzal said. "We had some success but it's totally different hockey in the playoffs."

Tippett called Sunday's win "the best 60 minutes we played in the playoffs for sure." He said the Coyotes' attitude about Game 2, after escaping with a 4-3 overtime win Friday in Game 1, was players asking themselves why they couldn't play better in Game 2.

"You could see our guys were determined," Tippett said.


Three Goals In Second Period Has Coyotes Up "Big"

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hey, a 4-2 lead in a game involving the Phoenix Coyotes is cause to celebrate a potential blowout, and that's what we have here at Arena after two periods.

There's still 20 minutes to play in Game 2 of the playoff series against the Nashville Predators, but so far, this is not Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne's night, nor his defense's. Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and Taylor Pyatt scored goals in the second period for the Coyotes, who are on the cusp of taking a 2-0 series lead.

Vrbata got an assist when he faked a wraparound shot that got Rinne out of position. The puck went out to Hanzal for an easy finish to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 16:13 of the period.

Vrbata made it 3-1 at the 7:05 mark, but a slashing penalty on Ray Whitney allowed the Predators to go on the power play. Ryan Suter's shot from the point deflected off teammate Patric Hornqvist for a goal to make a 3-2.

Hornqvist was just lucky to be position for the redirect. It was hard to tell with the naked eye that he actually touched the puck.

It took the Coyotes 30 seconds to answer. Shane Doan -- how can you not be happy for him after so many years of early playoff exits, if his teams even make them -- tried a shot that bounced out to Taylor Pyatt, who beat Rinne at 11:50 of the period to make it 4-2.

Rostislav Klesla returned to action in the second period for Phoenix. The Predators (name of a movie starring Adrien Brody and and a pretty solid Ice Cube album featuring the track "Check Yo' Self -- perfect for hockey!) killed a penalty late in the half, but the two teams will start the final period one man down each after dual two-minute penalties incurred with 9.8 seconds left in the second.


Here We Go Again: Coyotes, Predators Tied At 1

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Antoine Vermette has five, yes five, goals in eight Phoenix Coyotes playoff games, and the eighth one isn't over yet.

Vermette redirected a pass from teammate Keith Yandle into the net at 8:32 of the first period, and the goal put the Coyotes up 1-0 in Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference semifinals against the Nashville Predators Sunday at Arena.

There was an energy, a more physical presence to the Coyotes to start the game. They were delivering the shots, not taking them, and it seemed like they knew they had to give hard-working goaltender Mike Smith somewhat of a break from all the shots he had to face in Game 1.

Not that Smith wasn't busy. He did make one very impressive stop of a wrist from directly in front of him. Seconds later, the Predators' Brandon Yip was called for roughing and the Coyotes got a power play, but couldn't convert.

Regarding the hitting, Gilbert Brule rocked Nashville's Francis Bouillon at the 5:15 mark of the period. You might say that Brule turned Bouillon into bouillon. See definition here.

The Predators tied at 17:13 of the period, Kevin Klein managing to get off a pass to a streaking Andrei Kostitsyn coming down the middle toward Smith. Smith had no defensive help and got beat with the shot.

The Coyotes actually lead in shots so far, 12-9. But this game is shaping up to be another close one. Well, at least the Coyotes are tested in that area. On to Period 2.

Rostislav Klesla has yet to return for Phoenix. He took a puck to the face 33 seconds into the game and needed some help skating off the ice and into the locker room.


Coyotes' Quotes From Saturday Skate

The Coyotes practiced Saturday in preparation for Game 2, and the team was kind enough to provide media with quotes from today's session.

Coach Dave Tippett

On goaltender Mike Smith's workload late in the game: "We relied too much on him in the third period. I thought in the overtime they had a couple flurries but not near as much as bad as it was in the third period. But like I said last night, we were on our heels from killing penalties and didn't execute well enough to give us anything going in the offensive side. So Smitty (Smith) came up big for us, we got our first win, we all recognize we can be better in Game 2 and we're going to have to be better."

On making adjustments for Game 2: "That's the great thing about playoffs. Every game there's things you have to improve. Every game there's things you want to try to exploit on the other team. Every game is a challenge that way, and it's mentally and tactically."

On whether he was surprised about the offense in Game 1: "It's just the flow of the playoffs. Sometimes you get times when the game gets revved up and one team gets pinned in their end. In the second period (in Game 1) both teams took their timeout midway through the second period because the other team had a team pinned in. So sometimes the momentum of the game or the flow of the game just dictates that."

Shane Doan (captain)

On whether he was surprised about the offense in Game 1: "I don't know. They want to open it up a little bit, too. They've got some guys over there that can play with the puck. (Forward Alexander) Radulov, (Forward David) Legwand and that line. (Forward Mike) Fisher, (Forward Martin) Erat and their line. They can really play with the puck. Their blueline likes to join the rush and make it so it's an odd-man rush against. So, you've got to expect that there's going to be some offense. At the same time, they've got great goaltending and I think everyone talks about how great the goaltenders are in this series. And that's going to be a staple of the series."

On Game 2: "This game is huge. Everyone talks about the second and third games of every series and how big they are. We've got to find a way to win this next one. We didn't play bad (in Game 1), we didn't play great, we found a way to win and we've got to do it again, I don't care how. I'd love to be talking (after Game 2) about how we didn't play great but we found a way to win again. It would be fine by me as long as we keep finding ways to win."

Goaltender Mike Smith

On his size: "Obviously it doesn't hurt to be big. You cover more net, but like I said, I just try to get in a good position and make the saves I'm supposed to make, and then hopefully make some that just hit me, too."

On what he's thinking when he loses his stick: "I'd rather just let the defense keep their stick that way the puck can get out of our end. I practice that with Burkie (Goaltending coach Sean Burke), just playing without a stick and it doesn't happen very often, but when it does I have to be comfortable in that situation."

On preserving leads late in games: "I think as a group we want to get better in that area. We didn't play our best game, obviously. We stuck with our game plan for most of the two periods, but I think we can improve closing games out still. Obviously we lost some leads in the Chicago series and again last night. So, we have to keep trying to improve and finding ways to keep the puck out of our net late in games."


Coyotes Set Playoff Game OT Record With 4-3 Win In Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The question was inane. No depth at all to it. But the words seemed to fit. "Hockey the hard way," the statement formed into a question by a TV reporter after Friday's Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference semifinals, is not only the Phoenix Coyotes' marketing theme for this season. It is how they have existed in the playoffs.

Ray Whitney got a friendly puck bounce from teammates Martin Hanzal off a faceoff and put a shot in the back of the net at 14:04 of overtime, and the Coyotes won a thriller over the Nashville Predators 4-3 to go up 1-0 in the series.

Talk about being tested and not for the faint of heart. The Coyotes played the sixth overtime game of their seven in these playoffs alone. Five in a row with Chicago in Round 1, then a win in regulation in Game 6 of that series, then right back to overtime for Friday's game. The Coyotes moved to 4-2 in those OT games and won the second of those at home after two home overtime losses to the Blackhawks.

"That's not the game plan," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after he could exhale a sigh of relief. "Our skill and compete in the third period was non-existent. Just not good enough. We were fortunate to win in overtime.

"Spending over five minutes of the third period on the penalty kill is not the recipe for success. We need our players to make plays under pressure."

Tippett commended the effort of goalkeeper Mike Smith, who was under fire in the third period and overtime. The Predators had 16 shot in the third and nine in OT, and only one of those 25 got by Smith (in photo).


The Coyotes never trailed in the game, leading 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2. Each time, the Predators had an answer.

In the third period, Martin Erat tied the score at 3. A shot by Preds teammate Patric Hornqvist rebounded off Smith (who made the initial stop, not surprisingly) for Erat, who scored at 15:18 of the period. It was a downer of a goal; the Coyotes had killed four previous power plays but didn't have enough left for a fifth.

The overtime period was all Predators, really, as the Coyotes' shots looked much more harmless than those of Nashville. Smith either got a break as the shots went high or wide, or actually stopped some by some miracle.

"Once again, the resilient Coyotes found a way to get a win," Smith said, explaining how he lose his stick for a moment during overtime.

Game 2 is Sunday at Arena, and perhaps all of the seats will be filled this time. They weren't on Friday, even though a sellout standing room only crowd of 17,187 was announced and many arrived late.


Boedker's Solo Performance Has 'Yotes Up 3-2 After Two

Goals. Everybody loves them in soccer and hockey. Mikkel Boedker thrilled the home crowd with a beauty of a goal at the 17:27 mark of the second period, and it has the Phoenix Coyotes ahead 3-2 after two periods of play in Game 1 of the second round of the NHL playoffs against the Nashville Predators.

Let's start with how the period ended. The Predators bombarded Phoenix goalie Mike Smith with several quality shots, but either missed or had them saved. Then the Coyotes' Antoine Vermette was given 2:00 for holding right at the final buzzer, so the Predators will start the third period on a power play.

That came after Boedker moved up the ice with the puck, stopped and faked a centering pass and shot it past Pekka Rinne to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead. It is the goal of the night so far.

It's another goalkeeper's battle for the most part, but Smith seems to have come up with the better saves.

The Coyotes took a 2-1 lead just a few minutes into the period when Rostislav Klesla's first shot deflected off a Nashville defender in front of the goal, then right back to Klesla who sent the puck past Rinne.

After the Coyotes killed off another penalty, the Predators got a strange goal. Smith couldn't hang onto a loose puck and it came out to Andrei Kostitsyn, who nudged it past a sprawled out Smith at 11:19 of the period.

Shots on goal are just about even. The Preds have 18, the Coyotes 17. For once at home, the other team isn't totally outshooting the Coyotes the way Chicago did in the first rounds. And once again the question is asked -- can the Coyotes hang onto this lead and close without going to overtime?

It's time for the fans to sing "Sweet Caroline."


Music City Vs. Well, Glendale... Equals Entertaining First Period

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Who'd have thought they can play good hockey in the country music and barbecue town that is Nashville, Tenn.? Well, they do. The Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes ended the first period tied at 1 in a a back and forth game in front of a big crowd, and their friends Empty and Seats and Arena Friday.

Sorry, I couldn't come up with a nickname for Glendale in the headline. All of those WhiteOut T-shirts on the backs of the vacant arena chairs are a bit distracting.

But let's not go there. Let's instead talk about how the Coyotes scored the opening goal of their NHL Western Conference Semifinal series against the Predators. It was Radim Vrbata, with his first of the postseason after spending some time unable to play in the first round, firing home the puck off power-play puck movement around the horn. Four passes, the last one from Ray Whitney, found Vrbata, who beat Pekka Rinne to his right and above his elbow at 7:23 of the period.

This was important for the Coyotes. They got off to a good start and got a goal from Vrbata, their regular-season scoring leader with 35.

The Predators tied it up not long after the Coyotes executed a strong penalty kill. It looked like Francis Bouillon was attempting to simply send the puck into the Phoenix zone, but the long pass to no one took a wicked bounce off the side board and didn't go to goaltender Mike Smith, who was out of the next waiting for the puck to bounce to him.

Brandon Yip was there for the easy follow-up with Smith out of his net.

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