NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Scott Walker's future contract negotiations take an upturn every time the Coyotes come calling.
“I'm surprised he didn't comp our hotel rooms," Phoenix general manager Mike Barnett said.
Walker had a different, and new form of payment in mind Thursday.
With 1:33 remaining in regulation, the Coyote killer drew a crucial penalty on Phoenix forward Jan Hrdina for boarding. Scott Hartnell's deflection on the ensuing power play helped Nashville end the Coyote' nine-game, road unbeaten streak with a 4-3 win at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
”I can live with Jan's penalty," said Coyotes coach Bob Francis, who was in the minority in the Phoenix locker room.
”They won't get any applause for the one they missed on Shane Doan."
Francis thought the officials missed a call when Doan was hauled down earlier, but the end result was a major blown opportunity for Phoenix, which came into the game just two points behind Nashville for the seventh spot in the Western Conference.
“This is one of those games where we'll be kicking ourselves later," said goalie Sean Burke, who returned to action after 17 days without a game. “It was there to be had. We had that 3-2 lead and then we blew it."
Burke got off to an ominous start in his first appearance since Dec. 29. Nashville scored on its first shot of the game — a nifty feed from Walker to defenseman Andrew Hutchinson just 4:43 into the game.
Making his Coyotes debut, wing Ivan Novoseltsev compounded the problem by taking a lazy hooking penalty when he reached for his man instead of skating to him.
Nashville's Marek Zidlicky cashed in on the ensuing power play when his centering pass from the left boards caromed off defenseman Paul Mara's stick and in for a 2-0 lead at 10:06.
Zidlicky's goal was the first of the Predators' eight this season vs. Phoenix on which Walker did not have a point.
“He's a good little player, but against us he's Wayne Gretzky," Burke said of Walker.
Phoenix managed just three shots in the first period, but Daymond Langkow gave it life by knocking in a feed from Jeff Taffe on the power play with 3:54 left in the first period to cut the lead to 2-1.
Daniel Cleary and Brian Savage then banged home back-to-back goals, one on the power play, to give the Coyotes a temporary 3-2 lead before Martin Erat's backhand chip shot eluded Burke to knot the game at 3-3 going to the third period.
“I wasn't happy with the first 20 (minutes) but I thought we picked it up in the second and we competed hard in the third," Francis said.
“The moral of the story is it takes 60 to win and you can't let the game get out of line and allow the referees to determine the outcome of the game."