Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/13/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As get-away games go, this wasnt what the Coyotes wanted. Then again, a wide-open affair with lots of scoring chances and defensive breakdowns was the last thing anybody expected from a Nashville-Phoenix matchup. "We gave away easy chances," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said following the Predators 5-4 shootout win at Jobing.com Arena. "It was poor reads ... just poor defending. There are mistakes that are getting made that we have to clean up." No time like the present. With 12 games left on the schedule, the Coyotes' margin for error has dwindled to two points, which represents their lead over ninth-place San Jose, the first team out of the playoff picture. The way things are going this March, that margin could be gone by the time the team reaches stop No. 3 on its upcoming trip, which will be in Edmonton on Sunday. Phoenix is now 1-4-2 this month after that memorable 11-0-1 February run. "Its a desperate time," captain Shane Doan said. "We have to find ways to win." To be fair, Nashville is a loose team playing with a lot of confidence ever since it acquired Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline. The Predators now have some offensive skill to go along with their water-tight defensive play and the stellar goaltending of Pekka Rinne. If this team does add 2004 first-round pick Alex Radulov, who bolted to the KHL in Russia in 2008, Nashville might very well have the offensive weapons -- as well as the balance -- to contend with the big boys of the Western Conference. The Predators have 11 players who have scored double-digit goals. The Coyotes have six, including defenseman Keith Yandle, who reached 10 on Monday. "Theyre playing with no real pressure on them right now given the fact that cant really catch (Central Division leader) St. Louis," Doan said of the Predators. "Theyre playing just to get ready for the playoffs. Its going to be a tough team to knock out, for sure." The same goes for the Coyotes next four opponents if Phoenix plays as loose as it did on Monday. Nashville got a late goal in the first period that goalie Mike Smith never should have allowed. Martin Erat beat him to the short side under the arm with 29 seconds left to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at the break. But Nashvilles next three goals were all the product of defensive breakdowns. Mike Fisher was all alone to knock a rebound in off Kostitsyns initial shot for a 2-1 lead. Yandle then made a poor read on a 3-on-2 rush, pinching to the boards to try a poke check on Erat that allowed Francis Bouillon to slip into the slot alone for a feed and a goal. On the final goal, Rostislav Klesla pinched and Michael Stone failed to read the play, allowing Craig Smith to slip behind him in the neutral zone for a breakaway goal and a 4-2 lead. The Coyotes got goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Raffi Torres to force the shootout, but one point wasnt what was expected given whats ahead. Neither was sloppy hockey in game No. 70. "Theyre mistakes that cant happen this time of year," Tippett said. "Theyre mistakes by veteran players, which is even more frustrating. I give our guys full credit for coming back and digging in and finding a way to get a point, but ultimately, were going to have to play better than that going on the road trip."
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