NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Phoenix Coyotes are heading home winners, even if it took them to the third game of their season-opening road trip to get that first one.
David Schlemko, Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski each scored in the first period, and the Phoenix Coyotes beat Nashville 5-2 Thursday night, ruining the Predators’ big party for their home opener.
Shane Doan had an empty-netter and an assist, and Mikkel Boedker had a goal. The Coyotes came back with balanced scoring after losing 2-1 in a shootout in Dallas on Monday night and 6-3 at San Jose in the opener.
“That’s big for us to get off the schneid so to speak and get going in the right direction,” Doan said.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett liked how his team controlled the tempo and stayed aggressive.
“It’s a good step when you get three out of six points on the road, probably deserved four, but with the way the trip started we’ll take 3,” Tippett said.
Ryan Suter and Colin Wilson scored a goal apiece for Nashville, which started the night walking down a gold carpet into the arena as part of the festivities.
But an emotional video montage in memory of Wade Belak, the former NHL enforcer found dead in Toronto in August, seemed to sap the Predators despite a sellout crowd eager to cheer a team coming off its first run to the Western Conference semifinals. Members of the KHL Lokomotiv team killed in a September plane crash also were remembered.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said the Predators had seen the video on Belak before and didn’t think it had an effect.
“We were caught in the moment standing there watching and not playing the hockey game,” Trotz said. “The game started, and we were still watching.”
The Predators had been 10-2-1-1 against Phoenix in Nashville since the start of the 2003-04 season and 16-9-1-2 overall. The teams split the series last season with both Coyotes’ wins coming by a single goal each time.
Phoenix had more than enough goals after the first period of this game after outshooting Nashville 16-7 in the first 20 minutes. Schlemko scored his first this season from the left circle off a rebound, sending the puck under Pekka Rinne as the goalie sprawled to his left at 12:00. Whitney scored on a slap shot off an assist from Daymond Langkow 2:28 later, and Korpikoski made it 3-0 with a backhander at 18:45.
Nashville opened the season with two road wins, which didn’t help Trotz focus the NHL’s youngest roster on improving in areas like playing hard on both ends of the ice. Suter said their defensive zone coverage was terrible, with players chasing the puck around.
“We kind of dug ourselves into a hole and couldn’t really get out of it,” Suter said.
Suter’s shorthanded goal on his own slap shot at 14:01 of the second seemed to jumpstart the Predators. David Legwand got his second assist, sliding the puck over to Wilson in the slot for his first goal of the season that cut the lead to 4-2 at 9:08 of the third.
The Predators outshot Phoenix 10-3 in the third and played with so much energy Coyotes coach Dave Tippett took a timeout at 13:04. The Predators even got a power play when Martin Hanzal was called for holding the stick at 14:37, but they couldn’t get anything past goalie Jason LaBarbera.
Doan credited the Coyotes’ penalty killing with preserving the win considering Nashville defenceman Shea Weber shoots the puck as hard as anyone.
“(Korpikoski) drops and blocks one. He’s one of our most skilled guys, and he blocks that,” Doan said. “It just set a tone for everybody.”
Fans started heading to the exits after Doan capped the scoring with his empty netter at 18:50 of the third.
Notes: Three players with Nashville ties who died in the plane crash in Russia, including former Predators defenceman Karlis Skrastins. … Coyotes forward Raffi Torres had an assist for his 100th of his career, and Langkow had his 100th career assist with Phoenix. … Legwand now has seven points (two goals, five assists) in the first three games. … It was the first game with Nashville for RW Niclas Bergfors and Brian McGrattan and the NHLdebut for defenceman Mattias Ekholm. … Nashville put RW Martin Erat on injured reserve Thursday.