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Preds learn from past mistakes as they take down Coyotes

In front of 15,728 inside Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville Predators learned from the past mistakes and beat the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-2, on Monday night.

The game was a carbon copy through two periods of the Halloween contest between these two clubs. Back on October 31, the Predators had a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes, Phoenix rallied in the second to pull within a goal and then went onto win in the shootout, 5-4. On Monday night, the Predators built a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes, Phoenix rallied in the second to pull within a goal but, luckily for Nashville, the similarities stopped there.

Nick Spaling got things started just over a minute into the game. Matt Cullen got in behind the Coyote defense and put a backhander on net. Mike Smith made the save but put the rebound at the top of the crease. Spaling swooped in and bagged his third of the season to make it 1-0 early.

“We knew we wanted to have a good start because we came out flat last game,” Mike Fisher said. “Tonight we had the forecheck and got pucks into the area where we needed to get them. We created offensively and made some nice plays and got that early lead.”

Seven minutes later, Fisher added to the Predator lead when Colin Wilson found him with space in the slot. The 33-year old veteran center snapped a quick shot that found twine, making it 2-0.

“I just saw some guys coming at me and I saw Fisher up high in the slot,” Wilson said. “We had talked about what to do there and about the high slot being open. I hit Fisher and he got a good shot off of it.”

Nashville wasn’t done with the first period, however. A strong tape-to-tape breakout pass by David Legwand led to a 2-on-1 by Viktor Stalberg and Gabriel Bourque. Stalberg drove down the wall, baited Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and threw a centering pass to Bourque who was crashing the net. With Smith anticipating a forehand shot, Bourque went backhand to put it by the Phoenix netminder and make it 3-0 going into the first intermission.

“We have to get ourselves back in the game before we get embarrassed,” Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said about the locker room speech. “Players are getting beat one-on-one all over the ice which just comes down to making sure you are ready to play and ready to compete.”

In the middle frame, the Coyotes would start to tighten up defensively and, as a result, got rewarded offensively. They got a goal by Mikkel Boedker midway through the frame when he created traffic in front of rookie netminder Marek Mazanec and tipped the puck past him to pull his team within two.

Less than four minutes later, Tim Kennedy scored his first goal of the season thanks to a beautiful between-the-legs redirection that brought the Coyotes within a single goal and reminded many of the October 31 contest once again.

Unlike Halloween, the Predators battened down the hatches in the third and skated off with a victory. They sealed the game on a Shea Weber bank-shot empty net goal that rounded out the scoring.

“We talked about that in the room and we learned from our mistakes,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “They had a push in the second but, in the third, it was back-and-forth pretty good and our guys did a great job killing the last few minutes on the clock.”

Mazanec, once again, was impressive. He stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced and looked confident in just about every one. The young Czech improved to 4-3-0 on the season, his first in North America.

The Predators will take on their old Central Division rival, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Wednesday night in Ohio.

Puck drops at 6:00pm Central.


MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:10 remaining in regulation):
1. Gabriel Bourque (NSH)
2. Marek Mazanec (NSH)
3. Antoine Vermette (PHX)

1. Gabriel Bourque (NSH)
2. Mike Fisher (NSH)
3. Antoine Vermette (PHX)