Originally posted on Fox Sports Tennessee  |  Last updated 5/5/12
NASHVILLE, Tenn. If the Nashville Predators end up losing their Western Conference Semifinal series with Phoenix, it will be remembered for one thing: the suspensions of forwards Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for Game 3 and the subsequent decision to hold them out again in Game 4 as a hockey decision. Following the Preds' 1-0 loss in Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena a game that cried out for a finisher -- the Preds now trail in the series 3-1. Game 5 is Monday in Glendale, Ariz., when the Preds will try to stave off elimination. If, somehow, the Preds rally and win the next three games, then the series will be remembered for an incredible comeback. Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he likes the odds of being down 3-1 a lot better than 3-0 from which NHL teams have only rallied three times in league history. "Plain and simple is we gotta win a hockey game," Trotz said. "And that focus can't go any farther than that. Winning a hockey game and it's going to have to be in Phoenix. I know when you're down in a series, I know 3-0 the numbers don't look good. But 3-1, a number of teams have come back and the numbers are much better than 3-0. Our focus has to be on winning a hockey game and we won't look past that." As the Preds attempt to dissect what went wrong in Game 4, missed opportunities are going to haunt them. Patric Hornqvist missed two open nets in the second period. Colin Wilson had a wide open shot in the same period and missed the net. Additionally, for the third time in the playoffs and the second time in two games the Preds had a goal disallowed. This one happened with 7:12 left in regulation and the Preds on a power play. The official ruled that Hornqvist pushed Phoenix goalie Mike Smith into the net and disallowed the goal instantly. "If you look at it, I don't buy that," Trotz said. "It's been a couple in this series already. We had one in Detroit. It's not really going our way with those." Said Hornqvist, "It's just a part of the game. Maybe we have to work a little harder to get those goals." With the disallowed power-play goal, Nashville finished 0-for-2 on the power play. That continued a streak of futility on the power play, as the Preds have not scored a power-play goal at home this postseason. In the morning, Trotz talked about needing to finish in those situations. Nashville acquired Andrei Kostitsyn precisely for his finishing ability. His three goals are tied for the team lead in the playoffs. The same is true of Radulov. He is a high-end skill player and the kind of game-changer the Preds have lacked in the past. No doubt, Trotz will be second-guessed for his decision. Hindsight, as they say, is 2020. Trotz stood by his convictions and he deserves credit for that. Kostitsyn and Radulov were defensive liabilities in the series' first two games and in tight-checking games such as the last two, the possibility of becoming a "turnover machine" as Trotz described the team's play in a 5-3 loss in Game 2 would have spelled a much more ruinous defeat. Nonetheless, he was asked how he would defend the decision. "My rationale, I told you my rationale this morning," Trotz said, as he explained that the Game 3 lineup got the job done with a 2-0 win and earned another shot. "How will I defend it? I don't think I have to defend it. I mean, the guys got chances, we created chances. A guy like Colin Wilson, who was very good, had more points than Kostitsyn for the year, so I don't think that's much of a trade-off. You can say the what-ifs.' Maybe they could've made a difference, but we'll never know that. The guys that played played well and created lots of chance. They just have to bury one of them." Captain Shea Weber also was asked about the decision. He defended his teammates and, in doing so, had his coach's back. "I think the guys that were in the lineup did a great job," he said. "We fought hard and we just need to do better the next time." Trotz said after the game that he did not like how some of his players performed and that he would make lineup changes for Game 5. That likely means that at least Radulov, the team's leading scorer in the playoffs with six points and seemingly the more contrite of the two, will return. The question is whether it is too late or whether it sets the stage for a memorable comeback.
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