Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/28/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Coyotes probably should have skated off the ice Friday night down a game to open the Western Conference semifinals. They probably shouldn't have even had the chance to win in overtime. But they did, and it was all thanks to -- who else? -- goaltender Mike Smith. As usual, Smith did all the heavy lifting in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, withstanding a tireless assault from the Predators in a 4-3 overtime win for the Coyotes. Phoenix once again surrendered a lead in the third period as Nashville cranked up its attack. Afterward, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett lambasted his team's effort in the third period and overtime, a stretch in which his team was outshot 25-7, including 16-1 in the third period. "The third period, they cranked their game up and we didn't respond," Tippett said. "Third (period) and overtime, (Smith) was under siege, and he hung in there and played very well. He did a heck of a job for us." To translate: Smith bailed the Coyotes out of a game they looked at times almost certain to lose. Coyotes forward Ray Whitney, who scored the game winner in overtime, made that a bit clearer. "It was one of those nights where we relied heavily on Mike Smith," Whitney said. "He was the difference for us tonight. The last half of the game, we were too dependent on him, but we'll certainly take the win." Smith's performance wasn't anywhere near as pretty as his spectacular shutout in the Coyotes' series-clinching win in Game 6 in Chicago on Monday, but it was undoubtedly the equalizer for a team that was outplayed for the final 35 minutes Friday. The first Nashville goal could hardly be held against Smith. Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon shot the puck into the zone around the boards, and as Smith skated behind his net in anticipation, the puck took an odd bounce off the glass, giving Brandon Yip an empty-net goal on a platter. Some might criticize Smith for wandering out of the net at all, but Tippett firmly defended the move. "I've said it a lot of times before: The amount of times he plays it and it helps us far outweigh the odd time you get a bad break," Tippett said. "That's a huge strength of his. Sometimes that happens." Said Smith, tongue in cheek: "I wasn't very happy about it. I'll have to talk to the guy that put the rink together." The next goal was a bit of a tough break too, as Smith made a great save from in close on what looked like an easy goal only to have Predators forward Andrei Kostitsyn knock in the rebound. Smith took the blame for the rebound goal late in the third period that forced the team's sixth overtime game this postseason. But with as many shots as Nashville took in the period -- 16 of their 42 -- one was bound to go in. "I just battled to try to make saves for the boys," Smith said. "We didn't play our best hockey in the third, and they came at us pretty hard." The pressure Smith withstood in those final two periods was more than anything he saw in the first round. The Blackhawks' elite forwards made life hard for Smith, but they never put together a stretch like Nashville did Friday. Without his effort, the Coyotes might have been the ones fighting to stay alive in the final five minutes of regulation. "He's certainly the reason we were still in it at that point," Whitney said. "He's the main reason we're here, but we'll try to take a little pressure off him next game." If the Coyotes want to take a 2-0 series lead to Nashville, they will probably have to go beyond "try" on Sunday. Smith has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs, but the Coyotes know they cant keep leaning on his heroics to be the difference, particularly against a highly skilled team such as Nashville. Then again, maybe Smith prefers it that way. "That's what I'm there for -- to bail the boys out and just try to keep the team in the game as long as I can," Smith said. "Tonight was long enough."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

LeBron James says Kevin Love-Celtics trade rumor is false

Michael Jordan gifts Kobe Bryant full set of Air Jordans

Bethune-Cookman football player killed at party

Former UFC heavyweight Kevin Randleman dead at 44

WATCH: Chelsea scores three goals in less than 20 minutes

Broncos safety Shiloh Keo arrested for DUI

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mountain West admits error, says Boise St. shot was good

WATCH: John Calipari loses his mind, gets ejected

Former Clemson star Tajh Boyd to speak at John Kasich rally

Peyton Manning's alleged not-so-wholesome image

Hawks not shopping Al Horford at NBA trade deadline

Report: Lincecum has been throwing in secret location

Jamal Murray destroyed South Carolina defender with dunk

WATCH: Lon Kruger gets Oklahoma hoops squad hype for Kansas test

Texas signee glad he didn’t pick Texas A&M after alleged racism

Dallas Stars have passed the early tests in February

Could Matt Forte become the revival for Patriots run game?

Are the Celtics legimate contenders in the East?

WATCH: Jabari Parker is no joke at NBA Rising Stars Challenge

How Marvelous Marv Throneberry became a Met

WATCH: Filip Forsberg goes beast on Lightning with this goal

Carmelo Anthony on trade rumors: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Report: Cavaliers shopping Kevin Love, price tag very high

Magic remain tough team to beat

WATCH: Pitt's James Conner works out after cancer diagnosis

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

The timeless greatness of Jaromir Jagr

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker