Predators do it without party pair
Nashville cuts into Phoenix's series lead with win at home
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
NASHVILLE - Guess Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn can stay out as late as they want now.
It doesn’t look like they’ve got to worry about playing in Game 4 for the Nashville Predators.
The pair were suspended for the Predators’ 2-0 win in over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday after breaking curfew prior to Sunday's Game 2.
Nashville cut Phoenix's lead in their second-round series to 2-1 and the Predators roared back into the series without their nocturnal duo.
In the hours before the Game 3 victory, Predators coach Barry Trotz made it pretty clear if his team found a way win Game 3 and get back in the series, he would reward the players that got it done and play them again.
Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo went into the lineup in place of Radulov, who was the Predators' leading playoff scorer going into the game, and Kostitsyn.
“Obviously with our situation, tonight if we get it done, I would expect I would probably go back with the same group, the group that gets it done,” Trotz said.
He backed up his statement after the game, saying it would “be very hard” to change a winning lineup.
“I think in the big picture when you make decisions as I said what I felt were the right reasons, the group will respond. I listened to a commentator on CBC -- between periods of this game (New York Rangers-Washington Capitals) over here -- and he thought I was totally wrong because he would let them go out all night and still play them. That’s not how we do it here. So I disagree.
“The guys respond because everybody wanted to be part of it. The group was committed to the effort. I will never apologize for doing what we felt was right. I think in life a lot of people did the right thing and have to pay a price for it. But when you do it right, you never have to apologize.”
So, would Trotz stick with the same lineup for Game 4?
“It’s very hard to change it if everyone is committed like they were,” he said. “It was a statement. It’s a privilege to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs, to play for the Cup, and those guys took advantage of the privilege of playing. That’s a sacred part of the playoffs. It will be very hard to change a lot from that group.”
Radulov and Kostitsyn were suspended by the team when it came to light the pair were out until the early hours of Sunday morning before Game 2 was played that afternoon.
Predators players, including Mike Fisher, who scored the second of two Predators goals 66 seconds apart in the first period, said they thought the suspensions of the duo could serve as a rallying point for the club.
Looks like Fisher was right.
“Sometimes these things happen and you’ve got to rally around each other as a group. I think we all had the feeling that we would. There was no doubt about it in our minds and then we went out and proved it. We’re going to keep going and that’s going to be a turning point for us,” said Fisher, who glanced a shot in off the stick of Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith after teammate David Legwand opened the scoring eight minutes into the game.
Back on home ice Wednesday, the Predators played smarter hockey and were rewarded when a hustling forecheck by Patric Hornqvist resulted in Smith making a rare mistake with the puck.
“I thought we gave up two easy goals,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “They were two unearned goals. We knew they were going to come hard and we gave them that energy.”
Fisher scored after some great work turning a puck over by teammate Martin Erat, who was the best player on the ice Wednesday night.
“We played hard for 60 minutes and finally showed some (guts),” Erat said.
Nashville goalender Pekka Rinne, who looked ordinary in the first two games, was spectacular while turning back a 41-second 5-on-3 power play for the Coyotes with five minutes to go in the third period.
Trotz and Predators general manager David Poile will tell you they made the only decision they could when they suspended Radulov and Kostitsyn, but that’s not really true. There were other options.
They made the tough choice and it paid off for them Wednesday night.