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Coyotes know they must improve

The Sports Xchange

Another third-period lead squandered at home. Another barrage of shots on their overworked goaltender. The names and uniforms have changed -- Nashville is now on the other bench where Chicago once was -- but the storyline continues on.

And in the end, the Coyotes just find a way. And this time, "The Wizard" was in charge of the overtime magic.

Outshot 16-1 in the third period and dominated early in overtime, the Coyotes leaned on goaltender Mike Smith to survive the onslaught and held on long enough for Ray Whitney to run down a Martin Hanzal faceoff win and flip it by Predators goalie Pekka Renne for a 4-3 overtime win that gave the first-ever conference semifinal in Phoenix a happy ending.

Smith was the story again, making 39 saves, including a brilliant one on Francis Bouillon in overtime that allowed the Coyotes to play on and for Whitney to join Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker (twice) as overtime heroes the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata added his first goal of the playoffs and Phoenix's first line, which didn't produce much in the first round, had its best effort of the playoffs. Mikkel Boedker and Rostislav Klesla continued their huge postseason with goals as well, but Nashville took over the game late and left Coyotes coach Dave Tippett shaking his head.

"The first two periods were not too bad. Then in the third period, we took three penalties and they pushed hard and we didn't generate anything. Our skill and compete level was non-existent," Tippett said. "We were fortunate to win in overtime, but it's not good enough. Mike Smith was under siege in the third period and overtime, and he played very well. He did a heck of a job for us."

The Coyotes have two days to figure out how to play a 60-minute game before the series resumes on Sunday night. After a rusty first two periods, Nashville appeared to find itself as the game went on and Smith had to make 25 saves in the final period and overtime while Phoenix mustered just seven shots.

But one of them, from Whitney, was the one that counted.

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