It started with Arizona's errant early goal courtesy of Matt Duchene's left shoulder and ended with a solid, but ultimately too-late effort in the third period. The Preds' 4-3 loss to the Coyotes yesterday happened in front of zero fans, but still felt like the most long-awaited kick to the stomach for Preds fans watching live hockey for the first time since March from 2,100 miles away.
The Predators dropped the first game of their best-of-five qualifying round series against the Coyotes by way of a 3-1 deficit in the first intermission and a subsequent shorthanded goal by Michael Grabner in the second period.
Unfortunate bounces adversely affected both teams, but the Preds got the brunt of them. Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson was credited with the first goal of the game after a shot block from a well-intentioned Duchene ricocheted wildly over the head of Juuse Saros, triggering the Preds' dooming first period implosion.
Karma did, however, somewhat come for the Coyotes and Ekman-Larsson in the third period when Ryan Ellis' shot from the point deflected off Ekman-Larsson's skate and past Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper. Ellis' tally 30 seconds into the final frame precipitated a 20-shot period for the Preds and, with Filip Forsberg's second goal of the afternoon, brought them within one goal of the Coyotes. Though their third period effort helped to redeem their play in the preceding 40 minutes, it proved to be fruitless as the Preds failed to tie the game.
Saros- who started in his first postseason game yesterday, breaking Pekka Rinne's 12-year playoff start streak- allowed three goals in the Coyotes' first 13 shots, eventually finishing the game with a .892 save percentage.
The Preds' power play wasn't a complete failure yesterday; Forsberg converted two of the team's five man-advantage opportunities and became the primary factor behind his team keeping the game competitive. Forsberg lead the Preds with seven total shots on goal, but was also largely to blame for a turnover that lead to Grabner's gut punch of a shorthanded goal.
Roman Josi notched two assists, but also came away with a -2 on-ice rating and just one shot on goal despite skating the most individual minutes on either team.
Arizona's Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall recorded two assists apiece, while Christian Dvorak tallied a goal and an assist. All three of them finished +2 on the ice and none of their teammates recorded negative ratings.
The Preds' loss put John Hynes' (very) limited playoff coaching record at 1-5.
The Preds and Coyotes will play Game 2 tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m in the Western Conference's Edmonton playoff hub.