By Josh Cooper in Glendale, Ariz.
Call it a rope-a-dope. Call it poor defence. Call it relying on your goaltender.
Whatever it is, the formula seems to work for the Phoenix Coyotes. Outshot and outplayed for the better part of the third period and overtime, Phoenix found yet another way to win yet another playoff game in overtime.
Even in victory, Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett looked at the Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference semifinal win like a loss.
"[Nashville] pushed hard, and we didn't generate anything," Tippett said about the third period and overtime. "From a skills standpoint, skill and compete are imperative in this game especially at this level of the playoffs.
"Our skill and compete in the third period were non-existent. We ended up giving up 16 shots. It's not good enough, and we were fortunate to win in overtime."
Tippett may be onto something. You can't keep winning games while being outshot by such gross margin. The Coyotes have been outshot in every game this post-season. On average, they have been outshot 40.4 to 26.1 in their seven playoff games. But it does help when you have a goaltender in Mike Smith who is as hot as they come and simply doesn't beat himself.
"That's what I'm back there for, to bail the boys out, keep the team in the game as long as I can and tonight it was long enough, said Smith, who made 39 saves Friday.
The key for Phoenix has been simple: Stick around long enough, don't let the other team score at key moments, and be hyper-opportunistic with your limited chances.
A pair of Phoenix goals came on Nashville breakdowns. Mikkel Boedker's goal that put the game at 3-2 occurred when Roman Josi pinched, sending a rush the other way, and Andrei Kostitsyn fell on the backcheck. This set up a 2-on-1.
On the overtime score Martin Hanzal pushed the puck to Ray Whitney off the faceoff. He then nudged it into the back of the Nashville net.
"Marty took the faceoff and the way it was going for him tonight, I had a feeling he was gonna either tie it or it was gonna come in that direction," Whitney said. "I think Fisher was trying to pull it in the same direction -- so I held for a moment and thought I'd go to the net.
Marty banked it over, and I kicked it, fell and just stabbed at it, and it went in. It wasn't a thing of beauty but it was in there."
For the Predators, the key is to not get flustered or frustrated with Phoenix's style. Did they outplay the Coyotes? Statistically speaking, they did. Did they have more scoring chances? Judging by the shot totals, yes. But the Coyotes beat them through playing this playoff winning brand of Phoenix hockey.
"I think when we took over the game and started playing in their end, I think we did a lot of good things," Predators defenceman Shea Weber said.
"We just couldn't score. That ended up biting us in the end. They got one chance and put it in, in overtime."
Josh Cooper reports for The Tennessean. Follow him on Twitter @joshuacooper
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