When two playoff-bound teams go at it, you know it’s going to be good.
With 17,113 looking on, the Vancouver Canucks were able to edge the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night, 5-4 in the shootout. The teams seemed to trade goals throughout the contest but, in the end, Nick Bonino scored in the shootout to give the Canucks the victory and a little bit of an extra cushion in the Pacific Division standings.
Pekka Rinne made 21 saves in the loss while Vancouver netminder Eddie Lack made 34 to improve to 16-11-4 on the year.
The Predators wasted no time getting things going. Just 4:30 into the contest, Cody Franson took a shot from the point that found its way past Lack and then, less than four minutes later, Paul Gaustad sprung Taylor Beck on a breakaway. Before they knew it, the Preds were up 2-0.
“I think we had a good start,” Filip Forsberg said. “We came out how we wanted and really took it to them.”
In the middle frame, however, Vancouver responded with two goals of their own. First, a Linden Vey tally that snuck under Rinne’s pads and then, two minutes later, a Jannik Hansen goal that looked like a Shea Weber rocket.
“I wish we could have a do over of the first five or seven minutes of the second period,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “If there was a setback that would be the one part of the game we just came out and needed to give a little more than we did.”
Viktor Stalberg came to the rescue late in the period when he skated down the wing and wristed a laser over Lack’s shoulder for his second of the year.
Despite having a man advantage to start the third, Alex Burrows collected a Seth Jones turnover at his own blueline and rushed in on a breakaway. He deked Rinne, causing him to open his legs just enough to slide the puck through the 5-hole and tie the game, 3-3.
“Seth makes a strong play,” Laviolette said. “He knows he’s under pressure and goes to shoot it down the wall hard and it hits the stick and carries out to center ice. I’m not sure what we could have done differently to prevent that. It was just an unfortunate situation because it leaves Pekka high and dry.”
Chris Higgins then used a bad Craig Smith interference penalty to give the Canucks their first lead of the contest but, as was customary in this game, Mike Fisher was credited with a goal when a Vancouver penalty killer tried to clear the puck but, instead, shot into Fisher’s leg and into the net.
Nashville will now have a much-needed three days off before taking on the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at home. The Stars are still mathematically alive and will be playing with urgency.
“Home ice advantage in the playoffs is huge and it’s something we really want,” Forsberg said. “So it’s desperate times for us as well.”
Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.
MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 5:41 remaining in regulation):
1. Alex Burrows (VAN)
2. Dan Hamhuis (VAN)
3. Cody Franson (NSH)
THE THREE STARS OF THE GAME:
1. Mike Fisher (NSH)
2. Cody Franson (NSH)
3. Nick Bonino (VAN)
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover // TheGameNashville.com