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Coyotes aim for 3-0 series lead in Nashville
(Sports Network) - After a pair of losses in the desert to start this series, the Nashville Predators will try get on the board in the Western Conference semifinals when they host the Phoenix Coyotes in tonight's Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena.
The third-seeded Coyotes won Game 1 of this best-of-seven set in overtime and then grabbed a 2-0 series lead with a 5-3 victory in Sunday's encounter at Jobing.com Arena.
Phoenix will try to take a commanding three games to none lead tonight in Nashville, where the Predators were 2-1 while ousting Detroit from the first round of the playoffs. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are 3-0 on the road this postseason after taking all three away contests in their conference quarterfinals victory over Chicago.
The Coyotes didn't need Mike Smith's heroics on Sunday as the offense vaulted Phoenix to the 5-3 victory over the Predators in Game 2. Smith, who has registered a .940 save percentage so far in eight postseason games, made 29 saves, while Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Antoine Vermette each tallied a goal and an assist for Phoenix.
Vermette has five goals in eight playoff games this year after scoring only 11 times in 82 games with Columbus and Phoenix during the regular season.
Martin Hanzal and Taylor Pyatt also lit the lamp, while Keith Yandle and Ray Whitney each added a pair of helpers for the Coyotes, who are halfway towards advancing to their first conference final in franchise history.
"Tonight was a big one," said Doan. "We realized that we didn't play as well as we wanted to in (Game 1) and we found a way to win. Tonight is more indicative of our team."
Ryan Suter had a goal and an assist in the loss, while Andrei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist also scored for Nashville. Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne stopped 34-of-39 shots in defeat.
"I have to be better, no question, but also we have to be better as a team," said Rinne.
Nashville will have to improve its performance tonight without the help of Kostitsyn and fellow forward Alexander Radulov. Both players have been suspended for tonight's contest for violating team rules.
Predators general manager David Poile did not divulge the exact reason for the decision on Tuesday.
"The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things," Poile said in a statement. "We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates."
Radulov leads the Predators with six points in seven playoff games this spring, while Kostitsyn's three goals are tied for the team lead with Gabriel Bourque.
Like the Coyotes, Nashville is also aiming for the franchise's first-ever trip to the conference finals. The Predators have been down 2-0 in a series twice in club history and lost both times to the Red Wings.
The Coyotes went 2-1-1 against Nashville during the season series and this is the first-ever postseason meeting between these clubs.
Nashville will host Game 4 of this series on Friday.
05/02 10:57:47 ET