By Amanda DiPaolo
Roberto Luongo shutout the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of the Western Conference Quarter Finals and he did it again, stopping all 20 Predators shots on goal in game 1 of the Western Conference Semi Finals as the Vancouver Canucks beat Nashville 1-0.
A scoreless first period saw Predators goalie Pekka Rinne standing on his head just to keep Nashville in the game.
The Predators lost all but 3 of 25 faceoffs in the first period. The Predators were out shot 15-5. While the Nashville out hit the Canucks 9-7 in the opening frame and blocked 6 shots to Vancouver’s 4, the Predators failed to record a single shot on goal in the last 8:56 of the period.
The second period was not much kinder to the Predators. Adding only 6 shots on goal to Vancouver’s 10, the Predators looked like they could not shake off any rust accumulated from the three day rest they’ve had since winning their first ever playoff series.
While there was some concern that the Canucks would suffer a hangover after finally beating the Chicago Blackhawks, it was the Predators that didn’t play Predators hockey.
Vancouver finally got on the board at 12:14 into the middle frame. Kevin Klein got beat at the blueline and was taken out of the play giving Maxime Lapierre the time he needed to find Chris Higgins all alone in the slot. Higgins shot went in the goal off of Rinne. It was Higgins second goal of the playoffs.
Through the first two periods of play, each team was awarded four power play opportunities. Each team’s penalty killing units remained perfect through 40 minutes.
Faceoffs improved over the course of the game for Nashville. The Predators improved in the second period winning 14 of 25 faceoffs, but ended the game winning only 39% of the faceoffs. One key matchup is David Legwand against Ryan Kesler. Kesler won all 1o faceoffs taken against Legwand.
The Predators finally showed up in the third period, but it was too little too late.
With Patric Hornqvist in the box having taken his third minor penalty at 3:53 into the final frame, Mike Fisher had a shorthanded breakaway, but couldn’t beat Roberto Luongo.
But it wasn’t until Rinne stoned Henrik Sedin on a breakaway with just under 8 minutes to play that the Predators team that manhandled the Ducks finally showed up to play.
Despite outshooting the Canucks 9-4 in the third period, and maintaining puck possession much better in the third, time ran out before the Predators could solve Luongo. Nashville ended up with 20 shots on goal.
The Predators looked slow. They did not defend their own blueline, allowing Vancouver to enter their zone freely. Nashville was not able to establish themselves on the forecheck and Erat, Fisher and Legwand combined for a total of two shots on goal. In contrast, Daniel and Henrik Sedin each had six shots on goal.
After playing what could be argued to be the Predators worst game of the postseason, the team still only lost by a single goal.
Rinne was spectacular. Vancouver’s media picked the Predators goalie as the game’s first star making 29 saves, despite the loss.
Once the Predators adjust to the Canucks game, if Rinne continues to play to the level he did on Thursday night, the Predators will be able to challenge for the win every game.
Game two is on Saturday night in Vancouver.
Photo credit: AP
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