By Amanda DiPaolo
Two of the best goalies in the NHL went heat-to-head Thursday night when the Vancouver Canucks hosted the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo battled through a scoreless forty minutes before Nashville scored three goals in the third period to shutout the number one team in the League.
Both teams had one power play opportunity before entering the third period. While the Predators got four shots on goal during their power play, the Canucks had difficulty maintaining any offensive zone time. Neither team, however, was able to capitalize on the man advantage.
It was just 1:59 into the third period when Blake Geoffrion scored the game winning goal. Jordin Tootoo, from the goal line, passed the puck to Geoffrion who was in the slot directly in front of Luongo. Geoffrion shot the puck over the shoulder of Luongo to give the Predators the 1-0 lead. Kevin Klein picked up the other assist.
In just his fourth NHL game, it was Geoffrion’s second goal in as many games.
In the middle of the third period Cody Franson went into the boards hard and awkwardly trying to get an icing call. After sending Alexander Sulzer to Florida for a 7th round conditional draft pick, the Predators are playing with only six healthy defensemen, including rookie Jon Blum. With Francis Bouillon out of the lineup with a concussion, if Franson is injured, another defenseman will have to be called up from Milwaukee.
The last three minutes of the game saw both teams with a number of chances, but only one capitalizing on them. First, Joel Ward set up Martin Erat for a point blank shot in front of Luongo but he missed the net with 3:10 left on the clock. At the other end of the ice, the Sedin twins were unable to connect, despite having Rinne beat and out of position.
With 2:21 left in regulation, Patric Hornqvist made it a 2-0 game. Hornqvist took the puck away from former Nashville Predator Dan Hamhuis, walked in all alone on Luongo, deked him out of position and beat him on the blocker side.
With two minutes remaining, Vancouver pulled Luongo for the extra attacker. Jerred Smithson blocked a Sami Salo slap shot from the point in the late stages of the third. If he misses any time, Nick Spaling will probably go back to play center and JP Dumont will see some playing time. As of late, Dumont has been a healthy scratch for Nashville.
David Legwand added the empty net goal with 35 seconds left. Martin Erat shot for the empty net before the center ice line and the shot went wide. Had a defender for the Canucks reached the puck first it would have been icing, but Legwand skated in front beating them and buried the puck for the 3-0 lead.
With the win, Nashville moved from 11th to 7th in the Western Conference. But with the tight standings, by time the Predators play again on Sunday, they may find themselves again on the outside looking in.
Nashville travels to Calgary for Sunday’s game to end the Western Canada portion of their four-game road trip. The Predators move on to San Jose for a game on Tuesday before returning to play 9 of the next 10 games at home.
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