Predators, Coyotes look to bounce back
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators grew so accustomed to winning, losing on successive nights proved quite the disappointment to them.
Though not quite as displeased as Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet was following what might have been his team’s worst performance — and worst effort — of the season.
The Predators and Coyotes play Thursday night at Gila River Arena, with each coming off losses in games in which they fell behind 3-0 in the first period. The biggest difference was how they responded to being down so early.
The Predators (13-4-1) came back from their three-goal deficit to take a 4-3 lead in San Jose on Tuesday, only to lose 5-4 on two goals 13 seconds apart in the third period by Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. It was Nashville’s first road loss in regulation this season.
“Lousy first (period), good second, back and forth in the third,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made some mistakes at the end that cost us, and we had plenty of looks and chances to make it 5-3 or even go back to tie it again, but it didn’t bounce for us.”
That loss came one night after the Predators lost on the road for the first time this season, 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout. Prior to that loss, they had won five in a row overall and were 8-0-0 on the road.
“We came in after the first (period Tuesday) and knew it was not acceptable for the best team in the league,” said forward Rocco Grimaldi, who scored his first NHL goal against the Sharks. “We came out and we showed why we’re on top right now.”
Nashville still has the NHL’s best record even after losing on back-to-back nights.
The Coyotes (8-8-1) had a similar start Tuesday in Detroit, but a dissimilar finish.
They trailed 3-0 after the Red Wings scored three goals in slightly over seven minutes — and then it got worse. They fell behind 6-0 in the third period before Lawson Crouse scored to prevent Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard from getting his 25th career shutout.
The Coyotes went 1-2-1 on a four-game game road trip, and they’ve lost four of five since winning five in a row. But it was their effort, or lack thereof, in Detroit that most disturbed Tocchet.
Rather than responding the way the Predators did, the Coyotes seemed indifferent most of the night.
“It was just lackluster by some guys. I don’t know if it was the day off (Monday), I don’t know if it was the end of the trip and guys wanted to go home,” Tocchet said. “But it’s inconsistent hockey the last two weeks and it’s something we’re going to have to stamp out really quick.”
Tocchet especially didn’t like his players’ decision making, or at least the slowness of it.
“You’ve got to make your decisions quick,” Tocchet said. “When you’re not focused and you’re not sharp, (your) hockey IQ goes. That’s one of my pet peeves, not having hockey IQ. That’s a tough one for me.”
Maybe it’ll help that the Coyotes are beginning their second five-game homestand in three weeks’ time. They went 4-1-0 on the last one, and this one runs until the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Fourth-line forward Austin Watson is eligible to return to the Predators on Thursday now that his 18-game suspension for domestic assault has ended.
However, the Predators are uncertain about defenseman P.K. Subban’s status for the final game of a five-game road trip in which they’ve gone 2-1-1. He left Monday with an apparent injury only to return in the second period, but then played only 7 minutes, 7 seconds on Tuesday before leaving the game and not returning.
Filip Forsberg leads Nashville with 12 goals and 18 points, while Clayton Keller has five goals and 12 points. Goalie Pekka Rinne was 2-0 last season as Nashville won two of three from the Coyotes, and he is 18-7-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average in his career against them.