By Josh Cooper in Nashville, Tenn.
The Phoenix Coyotes are still in the driver's seat this series. One win and they can go home up 3-1 with a chance to clinch in Glendale.
Though Nashville won Game 3 this is a fact not lost on the Coyotes as they took a deep breath in order to re-focus for Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Predators on Friday.
"Every game is one of those games that can control your destiny," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We got the two at home, we've given the one up and now we've got to look for a split. If we can get that win, you're going home with a chance to close out the series."
Phoenix had a sense the Predators would play their best game of the series in Game 3 - which ended up being Nashville's best game of the playoffs. In a series that has been punch, counterpunch, the Coyotes need to give their best shot.
"I think we all know we've got to be better than we were last night," defenceman Keith Yandle said. "They brought the intensity and we've got to match it if not be better because especially here at home they're a good team that gets the support from the crowd and we've got to try and take them out of it."
It doesn't help the fact that the Predators may have found the right lineup for the Coyotes. Without Alexander Radulov, or Andrei Kostitsyn the Predators found a good mixture of forecheck and defence to in some ways out-Coyote Phoenix with Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo.
"Last night, to me, we had to get back to our identity, and our identity has always been that work ethic and a defensive first mentality," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We let our offence piggy-back off of that and that's part of the forecheck pressure, that's part of the back pressure. It can be - there's no question."
Smith needs to regain form
For Phoenix, goaltender Mike Smith has been good this playoff series, but simply not great like he was against Chicago in the first round.
Smith has allowed eight goals in three games and his stick-handling has cost the Coyotes two goals this series, one in Game 1 and another in the most recent game. In Game 3, a Smith stick-handling turnover led to the Predators' first goal of the game.
It's still something Tippett believes deters scoring - and can create offence for his team - rather than causing offence for Phoenix's opponents.
"You watch how many times that deters the forecheck. He's the best in the league at it, by far. We have to use that asset," Tippett said. "Why would he change? Like I said, that one wasn't on him. I think our 'D' should have worked harder to get back."
The Coyotes still understand they need to match Nashville's effort, something they've been able to accomplish throughout the series until Game 3.
"You've got to ratchet up your intensity but you've got to be a little smarter too. We've got to get to the net with a little more determination in certain areas and sometimes a little smarter too," forward Shane Doan said. "We've got to be smarter with the way we attack the net too."Josh Cooper reports for The Tennessean. Follow him @joshuacooper.
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