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Arizona Coyotes take 2-1 series lead over Nashville Predators

Like the Phoenix Suns, bubble life has been good to the Arizona Coyotes so far. The Yotes took a 2-1 series lead over Nashville on Wednesday.
Credit: AP
Nashville Predators' Ryan Johansen (92) crashes into Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) during first period NHL qualifying round game action in Edmonton, on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

EDMONTON, AB — The Arizona Coyotes now hold a 2-1 series lead over the Nashville Predators following a 4-1 win Wednesday in Edmonton.

Conor Garland and Taylor Hall each scored in the third period and Darcy Kuemper came up with 39 saves. This was Kuemper's third start in four games and second in as many days.

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.

Christian Dvorak scored on Arizona’s first shot of the game, and the 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 center Matt Duchene found over the blue line on review. Turris later hit the post with 6:19 left.

Garland put the Coyotes ahead to stay with his wrister from the slot at 7:08 of the third. 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.

Viktor Arvidsson scored Nashville’s lone goal.

The Coyotes stuck with Kuemper in net with Antti Raanta out. Raanta apparently was hurt during warmups 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.

Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson went to the locker room after being hit by Predators forward Austin Watson at 6:28 of the second.

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.

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. 

Game 4 is Friday.

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