Jojo Doria - AHN Sports Contributor
Nashville, TN, United States (AHN Sports) - The Phoenix Coyotes took a commanding 3-1 lead for the second straight series with the chance to advance thanks to a sterling goaltending by Mike Smith, who made 25 saves in a 1-0 shutout win over the Nashville Predators Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.
It was the second shutout of these playoffs for Smith, who had been almost impregnable in the past two games.
Smith, 30, surrendered only two goals in 51 shots in Games 2 and 3 after both teams combined for 15 goals through the first two contest of this Western Conference Semifinals.
It was also the 10th shutout of the season for Smith, who credited an all-around team effort in reaching the brink of their first-ever conference finals.
The Coyotes roared out from the starting gate. They not only outskated and outshot Nashville from the start, but they also helped prevent the Predators from scoring by blocking 10 of the Preds' first 15 attempts.
With the Coyotes solid effort in the opening period, Shane Doan's lone goal proved enough in the victory.
After both teams failed to convert on power plays within the first 10 minutes of action, Phoenix drew first blood at the 14:25 mark of the opening frame when the Coyotes captain pounded home a backhand attempt that careened off Predators defenseman Roman Josi and in behind goalie Pekka Rinne.
It was the third goal of this postseason for Doan.
Nashville would up outshooting the Coyotes 25-24. The Predators went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Coyotes were 0-for-2.
Rinne, a Vezina finalist in each of the past two seasons, made 23 saves in the losing effort for Nashville, which missed the services of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for the second straight game.
The two Predator forwards were on the sidelines Friday night as healthy scratches.
The Predators, who are also seeking their franchise's first-ever trip to the conference finals, face a daunting task in staving off elimination.
The Coyotes can wrap up the series in the desert Monday. In Round 1, Phoenix had a chance to eliminate the Blackhawks in five games, but Chicago refused to go easy and took Game 5 to put off elimination a game.