The Nashville Predators let a golden opportunity slip through their hands last night as they were shut out by the Vancouver Canucks, 1-0.
The Preds, working on two days of rest, came out fired up in the first period against a tired Canucks squad that had played a close 4-3 game in Dallas the night before. Their forecheck was in high gear, their energy level was right where they wanted it, and they kept the play focused in Vancouver’s zone for the bulk of the first period.
Nashville outshot the Canucks 13-3 in the opening frame and as they left the ice it seemed like they had played their best possible game. They appeared to have an advantage going forward, too, after defenseman Kevin Bieksa left partway through the period with a lower-body injury and never returned, leaving Vancouver with just five defensemen for the rest of the game.
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault must have said the exact right thing to his team, though, as they returned the ice and looked like a completely different hockey team. They took away everything that Nashville had been able to do well in the first period and reversed it. Vancouver spent their first real time in the Nashville zone in the second period and turned the shots around, leading 9-5. None of those shots beat Pekka Rinne, but they kept him busy in the middle frame.
Nashville continued to play strong defensive hockey in the third period but they never again found that gear they’d employed in the first period. Vancouver, meanwhile, continued to press the play in Nashville’s zone. They finally broke through at 9:14 when Maxim Lapierre fired a shot on goal; the puck hit Scott Hannan’s skate or stick directly in front of Pekka Rinne and bounced to the other side of the goalmouth, where Dale Weise put it away for his first marker of the year.
From there it was all about the Canucks defense continuing to limit Nashville’s shooting chances. They finished the third period with a 12-5 lead on the Preds, for a 24-23 total during the game. Nashville missed out on a golden power play opportunity late in the game when Alexandre Burrows went to the box for slashing at 17:47, finding themselves unable to score even with the extra attacker on for a 6-on-4 advantage. And with that, the Nashville Predators were shut out for the fourth time this season.
- Pekka Rinne looked pretty incredible during this game, but he can’t win by himself. This games underscores the need for goal support if the Nashville Predators intend to compete this season. One bad bounce can erase a great game from Rinne.
- After two questionable games against Colorado and Detroit, Nashville’s team defense was back in strong form once again. Unfortunately the offense, which burst out in those two games, didn’t come out to play.
- Four Nashville Predators who you’d like to see firing the puck didn’t have any shots in this game: Ryan Ellis, David Legwand, Nick Spaling, and Gabriel Bourque.
- Spaling centered Matt Halischuk and Rich Clune on the fourth line, which generated several excellent chances in the Vancouver zone. Those turned out to be the best chances of the night, which says a lot about both the Vancouver defense and the Nashville offense. Clune sent a pass across the crease to Spaling on one of them, but Spaling wasn’t expecting it and couldn’t gather the puck in time to bury it with Roberto Luongo off to the other side of the net.
The shutout was the 62nd of Luongo’s career. He stands second among active goalies, behind only Martin Brodeur (120).
- No time to fret over this one – the Preds are back on the ice against Detroit Saturday night. They won agains the Red Wings on no rest once this week – can they do it again to avoid another losing streak?