Canucks earn shutout win in opener

Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne watches as defenseman Kevin Klein hits Vancouver Canucks' Ryan...

Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne watches as defenseman Kevin Klein hits Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:54 AM ET

VANCOUVER — Turns out overcoming the emotional hurdle of winning a seventh game a couple of nights earlier and restarting was the easy part for the Vancouver Canucks.

Vaulting over Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne was the tall order.

It took a while, but the Canucks succeeded in both tasks en route to claiming a 1-0 victory over the Predators in the opener of the Western Conference semifinal Thursday night.

After slaying the dragon which is the Chicago Blackhawks in an overtime thriller earlier this week and advancing to the second round, the Canucks had to find a way to re-ignite themselves almost immediately.

Sometimes, that can be a tough chore, even when a team has championship aspirations.

Not in this case.

“When we came into the season, we didn’t come in here to beat the Hawks. We wanted to take a run at the Cup and think we have the team to do it,” said Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. “It was nice to win the other night, but that was only round one. We’ve got bigger and better things we want to accomplish.”

Regaining their emotional charge wasn’t the Canucks biggest problem before the frenzied Rogers Arena faithful sellout crowd of 18,860 Rinne was.

The Nashville netminder is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and he showed everybody why.

He loomed large not just because of his 6-foot-5 frame through a 29-save performance.

However, Christopher Higgins had the right touch at the right time by burying a golden chance just past the midway point for the lone goal, burying a one-timer which went in and out of the net so fast it needed video replay to prove it.

“I saw (the chance) before everybody else saw it because I was trailing. I’m glad it went in and glad it stood up,” Higgins said. “We had some great chances and he made some big saves. We knew we were due so we just had to keep the pressure on.”

Still, thanks to Rinne, the Canucks couldn’t pull away. The fact he was named the game’s first star when the final buzzer sounded shows how well he did his job.

However, his teammates couldn’t pull off the rope-a-dope comeback when they found their game in the third period, and received the fate they deserved according to Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

“Let’s be honest, we didn’t deserve to win this hockey game,” Trotz said. “You didn’t see the Nashville Predators play the way they’re capable.

For that, Trotz was seething, and didn’t hide it.

“And I think there’s a lot of guys in that room that should be pissed off,” he said. “The biggest disappointment you can have is when you have an expectation from somebody you want to go to war with every night, and they’re letting you down.

“We had too many passengers and that’s not acceptable. At this level, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game and we had a lot of guys that didn’t bring their ‘A’ game.”

Exhibit A for that argument is the fact Nashville won just three of 25 first-period faceoffs.

Exhibit B was going more than 20 minutes spread over the first and second periods with just two shots on goal.

When the Preds did find their game, Luongo was on the mark, collecting his second shutout of the playoffs with a 20-save outing.

His biggest save came early in the third period when he denied Mike Fisher on a breakaway.

Game 2 of the Stanley Cup playoff series will be Saturday night in Vancouver before heading to Music City, U.S.A.


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