NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Getting the early lead is crucial for the Nashville Predators.
Jason Arnott, the Predators' leading scorer with 17 goals, scored than 3 minutes into the first period. 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.
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.
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz
On playing against a team that is struggling offensively…
"Tonight we wanted to get off to a good start, and we got a big goal by Arnott, who was going to the net really hard and getting the puck. We really wanted to build off of that. I thought we tried and the first 10 minutes came out quite well and got a little momentum and I thought that they were a little bit stronger in the last 10 of the first period."
On play during the second period…
"I thought we came out well in the second period and had lots of chances. It started to get chopped up a little bit during the rest of the period with the power plays and what have you. I didn’t think they had a lot of great chances in the second period. And in the third, when they got that goal, it gave them a little more net hunger, and we got the stops that we needed from Pekka Rinne. We got a 2-1 win against a team that needed a win."
On the play of Radek Bonk…
"I thought Bonk was really good. I thought he made a really nice play on the goal and I thought he was pretty solid defensively. He played what I call a heavy game and he uses his size and his weight. Phoenix has a pretty good-sized team and they sting really well. He was one of our best guys, I thought."
On the importance of the first goal against a struggling Phoenix team...
"If you get the first goal, then they need two to beat you. We’ve been there. It’s really important to get that first goal because you can build on that. I thought that their defense tried to jump up in the play a lot and we did a pretty decent job of picking up through the neutral zone and we broke down a couple of times and lost coverage, but overall we were able to maintain it. We didn’t let them get a lot of those second and third chances that they usually generate. I think we did a pretty good job."
On Pekka Rinne settling into a groove…
"I think so, coming back out of the All-Star break and being able to play in that YoungStars Game, and he’s played the last four here, so I think he’s getting a level of comfort. We have a lot of games for the rest of the month so he may end up being really good for us this month."
On Phoenix testing the team because of Tootoo’s injury…
"Absolutely they did. That was pretty evident from the start. They were trying to be a little extra chippy. To us the most important thing was getting the two points. We weren’t trying to get even or try to lose our discipline, and I think we did a good job of that. A couple of times I thought they were on the edge of coming unglued and they were able to hold it together a little bit."
Goalie Pekka Rinne
On the game and the win…
"It was a close game. We just had to keep it going; we all knew these couple home games were going to be huge. It’s nice to be home and play well in front of our fans."
Pressure down the home stretch…
"We haven’t been playing great at home. After the All-Star break we decided on a fresh start and so far it’s been going pretty well and the whole team feels pretty confident."
On being less tense after the first period…
"You can see when you come back to the locker room after the first period, everyone was more relaxed and laughing around. You can tell everyone doesn’t feel as tense and pressured. The game gets a little bit easier after that."
Last five minutes of game…
"They had some skilled players and they’re going to have their chances. I was happy I was able to make a few big saves and at the end the guys played really well. I don’t know how many blocked shots we had, but the guys blocked a ton of shots. They really sacrificed their bodies and did a great job."
Forward Jason Arnott
On his goal…
"One of you guys showed me a stat this morning that we do pretty well when we score the first goal and it just happened tonight. We played real well, real disciplined and we capitalized on our opportunities. It would have been nice to get a few on the power play but we’ll take the two points."
On playing well at home…
"You always want to go out and play well at home and especially now since every point is so important. We’re working hard so hopefully we can put some wins together at home."
On Pekka’s performance…
"He’s really come into his own. From the beginning of the year with all the flip-flopping back and forth between the goalies, it was probably a tough situation for them to get into a groove. He’s found his groove and he’s going to be a tough goalie to play against. He’s getting better with every game and that’s what we need."
Win games without a lot of scoring…
"That’s just the way the year is going for us now, and some opportunities are just not going in. But all we needed tonight was two goals and Pekka kept us in the whole game and if that’s the way we have to win, so be it. "