NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There are several different degrees of ties in the NHL, and the Coyotes have been part of them all this season. When you kiss your sister 11 times in the first 33 games, and three times in five days, that happens.
Where does Monday’s 3-3 tie with Nashville rank? For a team that is now on a constant 10-11-11-1 seesaw, it depends on how you tilt it.
The Coyotes didn’t lose despite a fantastic individual performance from Nashville’s Scott Walker, who continued his pillage of Phoenix with three more goals, but wasted strong efforts from captain Shane Doan (one goal, two assists) and center Jan Hrdina. The Phoenix power play produced two more goals, but did nothing with two overtime chances handed to them by the Predators.
So instead of using a chance to turn this fourgame, pre-Christmas road trip into a great one — or a lousy one — the Coyotes continued their constant dog paddle at 0-0-3.
"I think they are good ties,’’ said Phoenix center Chris Gratton, representing the glass-half-full argument. "We’re playing good teams that are playing good hockey. If we get a win in Columbus (tonight), we’ll all be happy."
Phoenix coach Bob Francis was more pessimistic. "Why be happy with one point when you could have had two?’’ Francis asked. "We certainly had chances, but we made mistakes that you can’t make.’’
Walker’s second career hat trick gives him 10 of the Predators’ 52 goals in their history against the Coyotes (19.2 percent). Two came in the final minute of both the first and second periods, a part of the game that the Coyotes normally dominate.
"When you give up one goal in the last minute, your chances of winning aren’t good. When you give up two it’s even worse,’’ Francis said.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead in the first when Hrdina (one goal, one assist) pounced on a power-play rebound and slipped a pass to a wide open Ladislav Nagy for his 16th goal. But Walker beat Cale Hulse on a rush up the middle and rammed home Martin Erat’s patient centering feed through Brian Boucher with 43.9 seconds left to tie it.
Then the real fun started. Walker finished a short-handed rush by sweeping a Rem Murray pass by a sprawling Boucher. Boucher reached back and slapped away the puck and referee Kevin Pollock motioned "no goal’’ and for play to continue.
It did, for more than two minutes, until Phoenix’s Branko Radivojevic was called for a penalty. Finally, the referees called up to the booth for a replay— which clearly showed Walker’s shot had crossed the line — and awarded the goal. The clock was reset and not only did Phoenix find itself behind, but short-handed as Radivojevic’s penalty stood.
Undaunted, Phoenix tied it, again on the power play, when Hrdina used great reflexes to trap Doan’s blast off the post and clean up the rebound with 1:43 left.
"Jan might have been the best player on the ice tonight,’’ Francis said.
Nashville fans might disagree. Just 55 seconds after Hrdina’s goal, Walker stormed up the slot and overpowered David Tanabe as he backhanded a rebound under Boucher’s glove as he tumbled to the ice — sending hats flying and restoring Nashville’s lead.
It didn’t last. Doan, who was as tough for the Predators to handle as Walker was for Phoenix, camped in the crease and tipped home Hulse’s drive with 11:20 left in regulation to get the Coyotes where it seems like they always are.