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 Jobing.com 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.