Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith produced another dominant performance to lead the Coyotes into the Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 home win over the Nashville Predators on Monday.
Smith has been the driving force behind Phoenix’s post-season run and he was at his best again on Monday with 32 saves as the Coyotes claimed the best-of-seven second-round series 4-1.
Phoenix, who had their first playoff series win in the opening round against Chicago, will now face fellow outsiders the Los Angeles Kings, who were the West’s eighth and final seeds.
“It has been a heck of a ride,” said Smith, who shut out Nashville in Game 4. “You don’t make the playoffs every season and you certainly don’t make the conference finals every year, so it has been a heck of a ride.”
Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal gave the home team a 2-0 second-period lead over the Predators, who welcomed forwards Alexander Radulov and Sergei Kostitsyn back after they missed two games for disciplinary reasons.
Nashville’s Colin Wilson cut the deficit to 2-1 with a tip-in with six minutes remaining, but Nashville could not find another way to beat Smith.
“We made it interesting in the end, but when you have Mike Smith in there you feel somewhat comfortable by the end,” Phoenix’s Ray Whitney said. “We’ve had contributions from key people at key times, that’s what you’re going to need.”
Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla served his one-game suspension for boarding Matt Halischuk in Game 4 and he will be available for the start of the West finals against the Kings, who stunned top seeds Vancouver and second seeds St Louis in the first two rounds.