Phoenix’s miracle march through the playoffs continued on Monday night at the expense of the Nashville Predators.
Before the 2011-12 season, the Coyotes had never won a playoff series before their move to the desert in 1996.
After their first ever first-round victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, the #3 seed Coyotes tackled the #4 seed Predators. Despite the Coyotes higher seed and resulting home-ice advantage, the Predators finished the season with 104 points while the Coyotes won the Pacific with just 97.
On paper, it would be a hard-fought series. The two teams matched up quite well and played a similar style of hockey. In addition, Coyotes netminder Mike Smith was one of the hottest players in the first round and Pekka Rinne was a Vezina finalist.
Unfortunately, for Nashville, they never had control of the series.
In the first game in Glendale, Nashville had clear control, but Phoenix had the bounces and won the game 4-3 in overtime.
Nashville then came out flat in the second game in Phoenix, losing 5-3 in a game in which they never seemed to get anything rolling.
In Game 3, the Predators put together their best game of the series – if not the playoffs – and shut down the Coyotes to pull within one of the series.
However, on Friday night, Smith shutdown the Nashville offense to make the series lead 3-1 and put the Predators on the brink of elimination.
Nashville came into Game 5 never having lost a series on the road. Phoenix came in with only one series win to its credit.
The two teams battled fiercely to a scoreless tie after the first period.
In the second, Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris opened the scoring at 3:54, beating Pekka Rinne on a slapshot.
Nashville had not won a game in the playoffs in which they had not tallied the first goal. Minutes later, the Predators rushed down the ice with a chance to break the Coyotes momentum. Roman Josi and Alexander Radulov had a 2-on-1 and proceeded to miss several chances in front of Smith.
At 15:09, Martin Hanzal extended the Coyotes lead to two on a long shot from the point following a broken offensive chance by Nashville.
As the two teams headed off the ice in the second period, nothing seemed to be able to stop Mike Smith. Until 14:01 of the third, nothing had. Riding a shutout streak of over 160 minutes, Nashville’s Colin Wilson buried the puck in the net to close the lead to 1.
However, that was all Smith would allow. As the horn sounded, Nashville’s season was over and the Coyotes were moving on to face the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.