After dropping the first two tests at Phoenix, the Nashville Predators finally earned their first win of the second round.
Now, the fourth-seeded Predators will aim to even this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series when they host the Phoenix Coyotes in tonight's Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville found itself down 2-0 to the Coyotes after losing an overtime decision in Game 1 and getting dealt a 5-3 setback in the second meeting. However, the Predators used a clutch performance by their Vezina Trophy finalist goaltender to finally get on the board in the series with a Game 3 victory in the Music City.
Pekka Rinne, a Vezina finalist in each of the past two seasons, made 32 saves in Wednesday's 2-0 win. It was the first shutout of Rinne's playoff career and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Predators, who are attempting to reach the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
David Legwand and Mike Fisher provided the offense for a Nashville club that was playing without two of its top scorers, as forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were both suspended by the team for missing curfew before Game 2.
Both players are questionable for tonight's game as head coach Barry Trotz may choose to stick with Game 3's winning lineup combination, which featured forwards Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo in place of Radulov and Kostitsyn.
Radulov leads the Predators with six points in seven playoff games this spring, while Kostitsyn's three goals are tied for the team lead with Legwand and Gabriel Bourque.
Legwand and Fisher tallied just 66 seconds apart in Wednesday's victory and Rinne would shut the door after that. Nashville's netminder stopped 10 shots in the first period, 12 in the second and 10 more in the third.
"I thought we had a much better effort, much better defensively...It was a huge win for us," said Fisher.
On the other end of the ice, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was touched for both goals on 26 shots. It was the first loss for Smith and Phoenix since Game 5 of the opening round, when Chicago posted a 2-1 overtime victory only to be eliminated by the Coyotes in the next game.
Phoenix also had been 3-0 on the road in these playoffs before losing Game 3 in Nashville.
"We have to compete harder in what we do than what we did. We're going to bounce back," Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.
Of course, the Coyotes would love to bounce back with a win this evening to set up a chance to end this series when they host Nashville in Monday's Game 5.
The Predators are 3-1 as the host in this postseason.
Both the Coyotes and Nashville are aiming for their franchise's first-ever trip to the conference finals. The Predators will have to overcome a 2-0 series deficit for the first time in franchise history to reach the conference finals. Nashville has been down 2-0 in a series twice in club history and lost both times to the Red Wings.