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Coyotes hop in the driver's seat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Phoenix Coyotes are on the brink of their first Western Conference finals thanks to their stingy goalie and the captain who traveled with the franchise from Winnipeg to the desert.

Captain Shane Doan scored in the first period, Mike Smith made 25 saves and the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators, 1-0, on Friday night to grab a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. It was the first win in the month of May in the franchise's NHL history, and Phoenix can advance with a victory in Game Five on Monday night in Arizona.

"To win like this is exciting because our goaltender's so good, and we know that we go as far as he takes us," Doan said. "He's been unbelievable in this and really solidifies how important he is and how good he is."

Now the Coyotes, owned by the NHL, are 3-1 for the second straight series heading back home with the chance to advance. Chicago won Game Five to put off elimination for a game, but Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said his message will not change.

"It's going to be the same kind of game," Tippett said. "Very little space, very little advantages and you're going to have to compete hard and hopefully we can find a way to win a game."

The Predators played without forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for the second straight game, this time the decision by coach Barry Trotz to stick with the lineup that won 2-0 on Wednesday night. Trotz said he refuses to second-guess his decision, though lineup changes are likely.

"Plain and simple, we've got to win a hockey game," Trotz said. "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, 3-0, the numbers don't look good. At 3-1, a number of teams have come back."

The Predators thought they tied it with 7:12 remaining. But officials waved off the power-play goal with the official explanation that a whistle blew before the puck crossed the line. Trotz said he didn't get an explanation.


Today's game

The Capitals and the Rangers get back to work today (12:30 p.m., Ch. 2) after recovering from Game Three of the series -- a three-overtime classic won by New York, 2-1.

Trailing by 2-1 in the series, the Capitals hope to get even by continuing a late-season trend: They haven't lost two consecutive games in more than a month.

That consistency allowed Washington to make a late-season push to qualify for the playoffs as the No. 7-seeded team in the East. It also let the Capitals come back to eliminate the defending champion Bruins in the first round in seven games.

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