NHL PLAYOFFS

Coyotes still control series

But Predators victory in Game 4 would shift the momentum
2012-05-04T00:00:00Z Coyotes still control seriesSarah McLellan The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star
May 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

NASHVILLE - After somewhat of an anomaly in Games 1 and 2 of the Coyotes-Nashville Predators conference semifinal series, Game 3 was much closer to the style expected between two teams built on their work ethic.

While the abundance of goals, odd-man breaks and open pockets of ice led to exciting hockey in the first two games, the tight goaltending and sound defensive performances returned for each team Wednesday.

The Coyotes are fine with that - in fact, this is an approach that suits their system. But the shift came with a hard lesson: With games needing sometimes only one goal to decide a winner, even a small mistake can prove costly.

That's how Game 3 became a 2-0 win for the Predators, but the control of this series remains very much in the Coyotes' possession.

"Best-case scenario, you'd like to be 3-0, but it's not the case," Coyotes center Antoine Vermette said. "But we're still up 2-1. It's a great situation for us."

Yet with a loss tonight in Game 4, that advantage the Coyotes built with a 2-0 start would be lost. The Predators would have confidence and momentum, leaving the Coyotes with questions as to how they let their grip on the series disappear.

"We have the control," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "I think we obviously have to play a better game than we played last game and treat this Game 4 like a Game 7 for us because we have to get the win here. You know coming in when you're playing two games on the road, to get two obviously would have been great, but one is a good feat. Hopefully we can get that."

The two goals allowed in Game 3 were caused by mistakes the Coyotes usually don't make - a gaffe when goalie Mike Smith came out to play the puck and a turnover that resulted in a fluky goal off Smith's stick.

"It's difficult enough to score in the playoffs, let alone when the other team's up 2-0 and continually concentrating on playing defense with the goaltender that they have," winger Ray Whitney said. "Gifts that we gave them certainly can't happen again."

But in a competitive series such as this, that's the risk every game. The Coyotes did have a chance to climb back into the game, with a few sterling chances from Radim Vrbata, but the execution wasn't there, and that's just as important at this time of the season as minimizing mental errors.

"The games are determined by sometimes a break here or a chance there or a mistake," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Games are going to be close. You have to try to take advantage of the ones you can and try to eliminate the ones that work against you."

"We're still in the driver's seat here," Smith said. "We control our own destiny."

Torres will appeal 25-game suspension

Coyotes winger Raffi Torres has decided to appeal the 25-game suspension handed to him by the league for his hit on the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa.

The suspension was announced April 21 by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.

Torres, who has served six games of his suspension, is not in Nashville with the team and an appeal has not yet been scheduled.

Today

• What: Coyotes at Predators

• When: 4:30 p.m.

• TV: NBC Sports Network

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