NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Nashville Predators are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. Making up ground isn’t easy the way teams are bunched in the West.
Jason Arnott scored an unassisted goal 54 seconds after Phoenix tied it in the second, and the Nashville Predators beat the Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night for their third straight victory.
Even with the win in their 800th game as a franchise, the Predators remained 11th in the Western Conference standings – a point behind Edmonton, Anaheim, Dallas and Minnesota, all tied for seventh with 65 points in the race for the eight playoff spots.
“Hopefully, the right teams win and the right teams lose, and we’ll get closer into that pack,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
Joel Ward had a goal and an assist, and Steve Sullivan and David Legwand also scored. Ed Jovanovski scored the lone goal for Phoenix.
“There are seven teams that are fighting for two or three spots,” Sullivan said. “Everyone’s looking at the standings every single day.
“We know where everybody is and what we have to do. We still believe our destiny is in our own hands. We have to win games here.”
Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky wasn’t happy with his team’s effort and credited goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with keeping the Coyotes in the game.
“The first period would have been 5-0 if not for the goaltending. We got outskated and came out flat,” Gretzky said. “We’re paid a lot of money to play the game, and you should at least give an effort.”
Nashville didn’t need the late dramatics of Tuesday night when the Predators rallied from 3-1 down for a 5-3 win over Chicago.
This time, Sullivan scored his fourth in the first period for an early lead.
But when Jovanovski scored on a slap shot from the blue line at 11:04 of the second, the Predators answered right back. Arnott got the puck and skated up the slot and Bryzgalov with a snap shot 54 seconds later to put Nashville back up 2-1.
Trotz said that was a key goal.
“I thought that took a lot of wind out of their sails when we got that second goal right after they tied it up because they didn’t have a lot of chances, and we had a ton,” Trotz said.
Ward padded the lead at 1:25 of the third with a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle on an assist from Martin Erat and Dan Hamhuis. Legwand made it 4-1 after a four-on-one rush as he caught Bryzgalov leaning to his right with a shot into an open net for his 16th this season.
It was a nice breather for the Predators, whose previous nine wins had come by two or fewer goals. It could have been worse as the Predators outshot Phoenix 47-26.
Nashville came into the game with the second-fewest goals in the NHL.
“Tonight was a pretty easy game for me,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “They didn’t have too many good scoring chances or anything like that. I don’t think they were ready to go at the beginning of the game, and we took advantage of it.
“We really showed that we wanted these points, and there’s no question about tonight’s game who the better team was.”
Phoenix has lost two straight and is 3-10-0 over the past 14 games.
Nashville improved to 6-2-1 at home this month, taking advantage of a franchise-record 10 games on its own ice in February.
Notes: The Predators are an NHL-best 14-0-1 when leading after the first period. … Arnott has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his last 13 games. … Nashville forward J.P. Dumont has three assists in three games. … Phoenix forward Joakim Lindstrom had a five-game points streak snapped.