NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Getting the early lead is crucial for the Nashville Predators.
Jason Arnott scored less than three minutes into the first period and Radek Bonk needed 45 seconds to add the second goal in the second period as the Predators beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 on Tuesday night. The Predators have scored first in all but four of their 23 wins this season. They are 12-0-0 when leading after the opening period.
“We wanted to get off to a good start and try to build off of it,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “We came out really well in the first 10 minutes. When you get the first goal that means the other team has to get two to beat you.
“It is real important to get the first goal. You can build on that.”
The Predators have won their past two games. It was the fourth straight loss for Phoenix. The Predators, 13th in the Western Conference, are working to get their way back into the playoff hunt. They are 3-1 since the all-star break.
“We had a meeting after the break and said we have to start winning games,” Bonk said. “We have a lot of points to catch up. But nothing is impossible.”
A shot by Dan Hamhuis that bounced out in front of the net set up the Predators first goal. Arnott skated in low from the right side and took a close range backhand shot that beat Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to his glove side for his 17th of the season.
Bonk scored when he skated through the inside edge of the right face-off circle and down the middle of the ice, beating Bryzgalov with a wrist shot high over his left shoulder.
“Bonk was really good with a real nice play on the goal,” Trotz said. “I thought he was pretty solid defensively. He plays a heavy game where he uses his size and his weight.”
Phoenix had been shut out in its previous two games.
“I thought our guys did everything possible to win this hockey game,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “We were strong defensively. Our goaltending was good. Our penalty kill was good. We’re disappointed about the loss, there’s no question.”
With both teams struggling to find the net a two-goal lead was crucial for the Predators.
“We are getting a lot of opportunities, but the puck is not going in for us,” Arnott said. “All we needed was two goals. If that is the way we have to win, then so be it.”
At the 4:40 mark of the third period, Joel Perrault prevented the shutout as he skated low through the slot on a four-on-four play and beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne with a backhand shot to his right side.
“It feels good personally, but I think we missed too many chances,” Perrault said. “That’s been the story the last three games. We’re playing well. The effort is there.”
Rinne, who stopped 29 shots, has played in all four games since the all-star break. Arnott thinks that Rinne, who had been splitting time with Dan Ellis, is finally comfortable.
“I think he has found his groove,” Arnott said. “From training camp on I knew he was going to be a tough goalie to play against and beat. He is getting better every game. We need a goalie who is going to stand on his head for us, keep us in games and get us win.”
Notes: Bonk has four goals in his past 10 games after scoring only two in the first 40 games of the season. … Patric Hornqvist played for the Predators after being called up from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League. … This was Bryzgalov’s first loss to the Predators in regulation in six career games. … Perrault’s goal was the first scored by Phoenix in the past three games.