First, injuries, and the Coyotes finally hit the ice with a healthy squad. Just 10 players skated in the 10 games before the Predators contest, and forward Martin Hanzal (lower back pain) appeared in his first game since Oct. 17 at Anaheim. Plus, Coach Dave Tippett sought to address the Coyotes' scoring drought. Through its opening 10 games, Phoenix scored 23 goals and that tied Nashville for last goals in the Western Conference.
Then, defenseman Ed Jovanovski took care of the scoring. The veteran blue liner recorded his first NHL career "hat trick" with goals in each of the three periods. Previously, Jovanovski scored two in a game five times in his career, and the last came on Jan. 15, 2007 against the Blues. The "hat trick" was also the first by a franchise defenseman, and that dates to the 1979-80 season when the team was located in Winnipeg. That effort carried the Coyotes to a 4-3 win before 6,761 at Jobing.Com Arena.
The dilemma of scoring lasted shortly from the opening faceoff when Jovanovski scored his first of the season on a slap shot from along the left wing boards just 1:08 into the game. The 34-year-old native of Windsor, Ontario added his second of the game just as quick from the start of the middle session. That came at 1:09 of the second, and he converted a Ray Whitney pass into his third of the night on the power play at 5:30 of the third period.
Jovanovski's third of the game came just 1:15 after Lee Stempniak tied the game at 3-3 with his 100th career NHL goal at 2:56 of the final session.
"I just want to contribute offensively what I can," Jovanovski said modestly, who scored his three goals on five shots. "The first priority to play solid defense, and if those opportunities came along, be ready to take advantage."
If the Predators had equal difficulty scoring, that quickly faded when the Preds' Francis Bouillon and Sergei Kostitsyn picked up two goals 30 seconds apart midway through the opening period. Both goals could have been easily stopped, but both eluded Ilya Bryzgalov and allowed Nashville to forge a 2-1 lead at the halfway mark of the opening frame. That's certainly off the Nashville mark of the two fastest eight second goals recorded by Paul Kariya and Darcy Hordichuk against Columbus on Jan. 21, 2006, but drew concern.
Bryzgalov, again, had trouble handling the puck and failed to cover a shot from Colin Wilson on a Nashville power play. The loose puck was eventually banged in by Patric Hornqvist at 12:44 of the second, and created a 3-2 Nashville advantage. Clearly, this was not the kind of solid game expected from Bryzgalov.
Yet, the Coyotes came back from that 3-2 hole to pull out their first one-goal victory of the season.
"The forwards are still struggling, and we need to get more scoring up front," said Stempniak. "Coming back they way we did was important for this team, and something from which we can build upon."
Still, the scoring of Jovanovski and two assists from Hanzal was encouraging.
"Good to have Hanzal back, and he's a real player," said Coach Dave Tippett. "He helped on the power play goals, but it was nice to see Jovanovski have a big game, and the play of the defense. It's all about how this team plays together. They are not reckless, but play within the system. It was good to see nice things happen."
Once again, the Coyotes have an opportunity to string two wins together for the first time this season. A road victory in Dallas Friday night would accomplish that feat. Then, it's right back to Phoenix Saturday to take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.