The Arizona Coyotes knew they had a big opportunity once their challenge erased Nashville’s go-ahead goal early in the third period.
The Coyotes took advantage by scoring the next three goals.
Conor Garland and Taylor Hall each scored in the third period and the Coyotes beat the Predators 4-1 Wednesday.
Now the Coyotes, seeded 11th in the West in the NHL’s restart, can eliminate the sixth-seeded Predators in Game 4 on Friday in this best-of-five qualifying series.
“We all understood the importance of it,” Hall said of the overturned goal. “To go up 2-1 in the series is the same as going up 3-2 in a best-of-seven. We wanted the last game just as much as today. Obviously, the next game is going to be huge.”
Christian Dvorak scored on Arizona’s first shot of the game, and Coyotes scored three in the third for the victory capped by Carl Soderberg’s empty-netter inside the final two minutes.
The Predators thought they had a 2-1 lead 1:13 into the third period on a goal by Kyle Turris, but the Coyotes won their challenge of offside with Nashville centre Matt Duchene found over the blue line on review. Turris later hit the post with 6:19 left.
“We didn’t know about the offside until the last second,” Garland said. “We were just focused on getting the next one. Obviously, that was a big bounce for us. We just kept with it, and obviously got the next one.”
Garland put the Coyotes ahead to stay with his wrister from the slot at 7:08 of the third for the first playoff goal of his career. Hall padded the lead with 4:22 left with his first goal of the series on a snap shot from the left circle. The Coyotes had been 1-of-9 on the man advantage through the first two games.
Nashville coach John Hynes called the Duchene offside the kind of detail the Predators can’t have. Now they’re a game away from the season being over.
“We’re also 60 minutes from getting it to Game 5,” Hynes said.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 39 saves for the victory in his third start in four games and second in as many days. Arizona coach Rick Tocchet called it a terrific performance.
“Kuemps has been like that for two years,” Tocchet said. “Nothing fazes him. throughout the years I played, you always have those goalies everyone wants to play for because he’s such a great guy, never blames his teammates. Those are the guys you want to block shots for and play for. Kuemps is that type of guy.”
Viktor Arvidsson scored Nashville’s lone goal.
The Coyotes stuck with Kuemper in net with Antti Raanta out. Raanta apparently was hurt during warm-ups Tuesday and left the Coyotes bench during the second period.
The Predators dominated the first five minutes putting shot after shot on Kuemper. Then Niklas Hjalmarsson took a shot on net that Dvorak redirected past Juuse Saros at 5:09 of the first, giving Arizona a 1-0 lead. Kuemper made 19 saves in the first period, setting a franchise record for most saves in a period of a playoff game.
“The first goal is definitely huge, and then we got to make sure it’s coming our way in the next game,” Predators captain Roman Josi said.
Barely a minute later, Nashville finally scored for the first tie at any point of this series. The Coyotes turned it over in the neutral zone with Predators forward Filip Forsberg feeding the puck to Arvidsson, and he put a slap shot under Kuemper’s blocker at 7:31 of the second tying it up at 1-1.
Nashville went on the power play less than a minute after Turris’ goal was overturned. Kuemper came out of the net to stop a shot from Arvidsson in the slot. Then Derek Stepan clanked the puck off the crossbar on a short-handed try.
Notes: Kuemper topped the previous mark of 18 saves in a playoff period held by Sean Burke, Ilya Bryzgalov and Mike Smith. … This was the ninth time Kuemper has started games on back-to-back games. He had been 5-3 with a .939 save percentage and 1.85 goals-against average in the second game. … This was the first back-to-back playoff games for Nashville since Games 2 and 3 of the first-round against Detroit in 2004 with Arizona’s last such time in the 1999 playoffs against St. Louis.
Game 4 is Friday at 2:30 p.m. EDT.