NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -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.
"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 wrister 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 wrister 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, but 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.
Head Coach Barry Trotz
On the game…
I thought that we played really well. Obviously we got a couple goals off of turnovers. I also thought we skated really well. You skate well, you can create those turnovers and put some pressure on people. There were some good reads and guys jumped into holes on their defense. They turned the turnovers into opportunities and those opportunities gave us a couple goals. I thought we came out with real good persistence on the puck all night for sixty minutes.
We could have been up three or four goals early we had some great chances, but didn’t convert them. Then, they got the goal and it was huge that we got that goal back real quickly. It took a lot of wind out of their sails when we got that second goal right after they tied it up. They really didn’t have a lot of chances and we had a ton. It was one of those games. The third goal was huge, to me it was game, set, and match at that point. The guys stayed really structured they stayed really strong defensively and they were persistent on the puck all night which made them look at their net.
On feel if he has a different team playing out there these past few nights…
It is the whole season, you have ups and downs if you work hard and do the right things with structure and persistence you are going to get some opportunities. Tonight we were able to capitalize on those opportunities. It was a big win because that was a team that was still chasing the pack a little bit. We have a real good test on Saturday with Detroit coming in to town.
On Ward coming into his form…
We put Joel Ward with Legwand and Erat, they have had some good success within the first 10 minutes that created seven scoring opportunities. I thought they are a real strong line, they have had success in the past couple nights.
On how hard it is to get back in to the winning streaks...
Just looking at some of the league scores and were we are right in the pack now. I know Anaheim lost, so that gets us in to that leading pack hopefully. Hopefully the right teams win and the right teams lose and we get closer into that pack.
On the win tonight after Tuesday’s performance…
It was huge. We won the last game late on Tuesday and we were just trying to carry the momentum into tonight’s game. We just have keep winning games and climbing in the standings.
On contributing two games in a row…
It feels great. Anytime you can contribute – especially in wins – it’s always a positive feeling. That’s what I try to do every night – hopefully contribute in some way possible.
On the last goal making up for missed chances in the game…
There were a bunch of chances back-and-forth and it was the perfect set up back-and-forth. There were a lot of lanes to pass through too. It was a good boost and it felt good as well.
On his personal stats…
Every single win and every single point counts. I’m well aware that I have good stats but it’s not my main goal. When you have good stats there’s a good chance you team is playing really well.
On trying to climb up the standings from behind…
Once you fall behind you have to win twice the amount of games. It’s really tough to get back, but this is the only way we can do it – keep winning. I think we’re on the right track and are doing pretty well.
On being more at ease when the team scores goals…
Tonight it was a pretty easy game for me. They didn’t have too many scoring chances. 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.
On the team’s execution…
I think we executed very well. I think Bryzgalov made some unreal saves in the first couple periods. But we were persistent at going after him and after a while they started going in.
On sneaking up in the standings…
I don’t think we’re sneaking up on anybody. I think there are seven teams that are fighting for two or three spots. 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 the games here. We have a really good home stand. If we can do really well here we can set ourselves up for the real stretch.
On the team feeling better after scoring nine goals in two games…
I think we’re playing well right now. I think we’re doing the little things we need to do to score goals – we’re going into the areas that we need to score goals. We scored some pretty goals. We put a lot pressure on their defensemen tonight and created some turnovers, and I think that was the biggest difference. My goal, Arnott’s goal, Ward’s goal – those are all direct results of us absolutely pressuring the defensemen and creating turnovers ourselves. And Legwand’s goal was just a 5-on-1, maybe, so three to four goals were just direct results of our hard work and our persistence at chasing the puck down.