GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Before each game, Chad Johnson sits alone in the stands behind the net and visualizes the upcoming matchup.
The 26-year-old goalie could hardly have imagined anything better than what transpired for him and his teammates on Monday night.
Johnson, called up last week after Mike Smith was hurt, earned his first NHL shutout in his Phoenix debut as the Coyotes beat the Predators 4-0.
Johnson had 21 saves in a game dominated defensively by a Coyotes team finally playing the style that led them to the Western Conference finals a year ago. Phoenix entered the night having allowed an NHL-high 20 goals in five games.
“You’re taking a chance on a young guy, but he stepped in and played real solid,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Nothing fancy, just solid, and I thought our team played solid in front of him.”
Johnson’s twin brother and parents were watching him in an NHL game for the first time.
“I’m sure they’re pretty happy,” he said. “My mom might be crying a little bit.”
Keith Yandle had a power-play goal and two assists, and Nick Johnson had a goal — his first with Phoenix — and one assist. Antoine Vermette and Laurie Korpikoski also scored in the Coyotes’ second win in six games.
Nashville got just three shots on goal in the first period, allowing Johnson to ease into his role.
“I thought he was great,” Yandle said. “He controlled the rebound. He looked calm in there. Any time there was a rebound, he grabbed it and sucked it in. He played like a guy who’s been around a long time.”
The Coyotes made it a lot easier with their play in front of him.
“I thought we did a good job of limiting them to one shot or one opportunity,” Yandle said. “If they did get one shot, either he made the rebound or we did a good job clearing them out. A lot of credit goes to our forwards. They came down and helped us a lot. We had a tight house in front of our net.”
The Predators, playing without injured Patric Honrqvist, were shut out for the second time in three games and have scored just 10 times in six games this season.
“You’ve got to fight to get in the interior,” coach Barry Trotz said. “For the most part, Phoenix deflected the attack pretty well, but when you’re getting deflected to the outside all the time you’ve got to fight to get in the interior. We didn’t get enough interior play and therefore we didn’t cause enough havoc.”
“Sometimes you’ve got to get greasy goals,” he said. “We’re not willing to get greasy goals.”
It was the first meeting of the season of teams that met in last season’s Western Conference semifinals, a series won by Phoenix 4-1.
Smith missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury, and Tippett chose to go with Johnson rather than usual backup Jason LaBarbera.
Johnson was making his seventh NHL appearance, fifth as a starter. In his previous appearances, all for the New York Rangers, he never played at home. He played in one game for the Rangers as a substitute last season. His last NHL start was three years ago.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been a while since I’ve been in NHL action, so definitely the first period — getting kind of my feet back into it — was important. I didn’t really feel nervous. I felt good, though. I felt good after the second and third, I felt really comfortable.”
Three of Nashville’s first five games ended in shootout losses, but it fell behind early in this one and Phoenix steadily built on the lead.
Vermette, with assists from Nick Johnson and Yandle, put Phoenix up just three minutes into the game with a left-handed one-timer through a tiny window past goalie Pekka Rinne, who had 21 saves.
In the second period, Nashville tried to turn up the pressure, to no avail. Then Korpikoski knocked in a loose puck from in front of the net for his 50th career goal and the Coyotes led 2-0 with 3:12 left in the period.
Phoenix put it away with two third-period goals.
The Coyotes made it 3-0 when Yandle passed to Nick Johnson, who knocked it past Renne with 9:26 remaining. Yandle’s power-play goal with 4:58 to go wrapped up the scoring.
Tippett said he hoped Smith would be ready to go by this weekend. Asked if Johnson’s shutout warranted another start Wednesday night against Edmonton, the Coyotes coach would not say.
“You know that old saying, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,'” he said. “I go by, ‘If it’s not broke, you haven’t looked hard enough.’ So we’ll see.”
NOTES: The Coyotes were without C Martin Hanzal for the third time in four games with a lower-body injury. … Greg Jamison told The Arizona Republic he expects to meet the Friday deadline to complete his purchase of the Coyotes from the NHL. The new lease agreement with the City of Glendale expires if no deal is reached by then. … Nashville’s seven-game road trip matches the longest in franchise history. … The Denmark national soccer team, which plays Mexico in Glendale on Wednesday night, attended the game.