The Nashville Predators beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Tuesday night, the final matchup in the season series between the two teams.
Although there was no scoring in the first period, both teams came out aggressively, putting up a combined 23 shots on goal (12 for Vancouver and 11 for Nashville). The first goal would not come until 5:42 in the second period.
The power play was kind to the Predators in the second period in an interesting way; the Predators first scored on their own power play, and they scored another goal short-handed.
On the Predators’ power play, Mike Fisher overcame the flu, which has kept him down lately, to score a goal with assists from Ryan Suter and Martin Erat, and Fisher also managed an assist on two other goals. For the short-handed goal, it was a strong team effort. The newest Predator, Hal Gill, made a beautiful defensive play and knocked the puck out to Mike Fisher, who then found Sergei Kostitsyn who scored to make the game 2-0 Predators.
But, as is always the case with a team as talented as Vancouver, the game was far from over.
At the 16:52 mark, Dale Weise cut the lead to one goal when he scored with assists from Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre.
The second period was a bit sloppier than the first, and was chock-full of penalties, with a combined 10 penalty minutes between both teams. This culminated when a small fight broke out between Shea Weber and Alex Burrows with just 37 seconds left in the period (both were only assessed two-minute roughing penalties).
The highlight of the third period was the work of the two goalies. Roberto Luongo had several impressive saves stopping the Predators from expanding the lead early in the period, with the high point being a diving save he made to just get enough glove on the puck from a shot by Shea Weber, who had managed to break away with a one-on-one opportunity against Luongo.
Rinne likewise had a great impact for the Predators, but for different reason. The Predators were very sloppy with the puck in the Vancouver scoring zone, making passes that were off the mark and not picking up enough intensity to match the aggressive Vancouver team, who was going all-out and taking risks to try to tie the game up. Riinne cleaned things up and didn’t allow many rebounds, which helped to make up for the sloppy play by the Predators.
At the 17:09 mark, Martin Erat and Mike Fisher worked to get the puck away from Vancouver beside the board right at the edge of the Nashville scoring zone, and once Erat was able to escape with it, he tapped it ahead to David Legwand, who had just come off the bench. Because he had just gotten onto the ice, nobody other than Erat saw him, and he was able to immediately hit the puck right by Luongo, who almost certainly did not know Legwand was there. The goal was number 14 for Legwand on the season.
With the game 3-1, in the last two minutes Vancouver had no choice but to pull Luongo. From there, the Predators were able to shut down Vancouver from making any sort of moves. Several different Predators attempted to score an empty net goal, but they were rushed and got broken up by a Canuck each time.
The game was played with a high level of intensity, with an atmostphere that felt strongly of the playoffs. It’s clear that Nashville realizes that the season is winding down and that every game is extremely important in jockying for playoff position. It is also obvious that there are some lingering feelings from last spring when Vancouver ended Nashville’s season.
Pekka Rinne had 32 saves on 33 save attempts for a .970 save percent and Roberto Luongo had 25 saves on 28 save attempts for an .893 save percent.
Nashville ends the season series with Vancouver at 2-1-1. The Canucks were on a four-game winning streak coming into the game.
The Predators face the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in Nashville. The Blues are three points ahead of the Predators in the standings.