The Nashville Predators finally ended the worst stretch of offensive futility in club history, but now they'll likely have to face the goaltender that helped knock them out of the playoffs last year.
The Predators should get their first look at Mike Smith since the postseason when they host the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Nashville (6-3-4) endured a goal drought of 176 minutes, 18 seconds before Colin Wilson scored in overtime for a 1-0 victory over San Jose on Tuesday. Wilson's team-high fourth goal was the Predators' first since Paul Gaustad scored in the first period of a 2-1 overtime loss at Minnesota on Saturday.
"I mean obviously we want to score but we're just preaching put the puck on the net," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "I think we've been outshot a lot in the early stretch here."
Smith posted a 1.73 goals-against average to help Phoenix (6-5-2) eliminate Nashville in five games in the Western Conference semifinals last year. He missed the Coyotes' 4-0 home victory over the Predators on Jan. 28 with a lower-body injury, with fill-in Chad Johnson making 21 saves in his Phoenix debut for his first career shutout.
Smith is healthy now and has recorded a 2.06 GAA while starting the Coyotes' last six games, with victories in the first two of this three-game trip. He made a season-high 41 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over Colorado on Monday.
"Smitty was unbelievable," captain Shane Doan said. "We all thank Smitty because he was so good tonight."
Doan's second goal came in OT on a three-point night for him after he went seven games without a point. He credited the back-to-back victories to a meeting the Coyotes had with coach Dave Tippett after a 6-2 home defeat to Chicago last Thursday.
"There was a lot to identify so we were able to see, and see all the things that went wrong," Doan said. "And I mean you can start with every guy on the team, particularly some of the leaders and guys like myself, there's a lot of areas to improve and Tipp's been on us and we're not there yet."
Doan's pointless streak began in the first meeting with Nashville. The four goals allowed by Pekka Rinne in that contest are a season high.
Rinne has gone 5-1-0 with a 0.97 GAA since that defeat. He had 25 saves Tuesday for his second shutout in three starts, helping Nashville kill off six penalties - including a 5-on-3 in the second period.
"The penalty kill gave us momentum,' coach Barry Trotz said. "They got determined. They sacrificed themselves. They got angry at themselves, and they fixed it. That's the best thing any coach can have when they fix it in their own room.'
The Predators are struggling to score without Patric Hornqvist, out with a knee injury. Defenseman Shea Weber was fourth on the team with 49 points a season ago, but he has one this season.
Weber's season output is lower than what Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle produced in last month's meeting. Yandle had a power-play goal and two assists.
The Associated Press News Service
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