Two third-period goals by in a span of 4:16 by Daniel Sedin was the difference as the Nashville Predators suffered just their third regulation loss at home since mid-October, falling to the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2, at the Sommet Center on Thursday night.
The Predators got off to a great start, but untimely penalties led to a pair of man-advantage goals for the Canucks, who improved to 11-2-2 since Nashville shut them out 3-0 back on Nov. 1. In only his third start of the season, Canucks goaltender Curtis Sanford stopped 26 shots.
“I thought we came out great in the first period and had plenty of chances, we just didn’t bury our chances,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Sanford made some good saves as well. If we would have scored then and pulled away we might be looking at a different result. Unfortunately, it was a lot closer early than it should have been and we just couldn’t pull away.”
Like they have done so many times before at home this season, the Predators pounced on their opponent early – this time scoring just 3:08 into the first home game in a week and a half. Seconds after the expiration of Nashville’s first power-play opportunity, Jed Ortmeyer took a cross-ice feed from Martin Gelinas and lasered a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle that went over Sanford’s shoulder to the far side.
After being held goalless in the first 23 games of the season, Ortmeyer has now scored two goals in the past three contests. Dan Hamhuis, also assisted with an outlet pass, giving him four points (1g-3a) in the last four games.
“I think I am getting more accustom to the system and getting more confident in my teammates now,” Ortmeyer said. “It has allowed me to play with a little more creativity and freedom while still being responsible defensively.”
Nashville continued to pour on the pressure following the first goal of the game, putting 11 of the first 13 shots on Sanford. But the Preds would get trapped in their own zone for an extended period near the halfway point of the frame, and with one Pred defender stickless, and the others fatigued, Alex Burrows snuck a shot past a screened Dan Ellis from the face-off dot to tie the game at one apiece.
Jason Arnott attempts to backhand one past Curtis Sanford.
Though the goal temporarily deflated the crowd, Nashville persevered. Both Tuesday in Toronto and early in the first, the line of Martin Erat, Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont created the majority of the Predators chances, and they finally got rewarded at the 18:12 mark. Seconds after narrowly missing on a point-blank shot of his own, Arnott grabbed a loose put to the right of the net, quickly circled, and found Erat open in his favorite shooting spot – the middle of the right face-off circle. Nashville’s leading scorer buried a one-timer for his ninth goal and 25th point. Marek Zidlicky also received a helper to push him into a tie for first in points amongst d-men.
“I like shooting from that spot – since I am a left-handed shot it gives me a good opportunity to get a one-timer off,” Erat said.
The Preds doubled up the ‘Nucks in shots in the first 20 minutes, 16-8.
Vancouver used its first man-advantage opportunity of the game to knot the game at 2-2 7:48 into the second. With Alexander Radulov serving time for a trip, Brendan Morrison found Taylor Pyatt streaking to the back door and fed him with a perfect pass to tap in. The marker was the first the penalty killers have allowed in four-plus games and 14 tries against.
Play see-sawed from one end of the ice to the other for the rest of the middle 20 minutes, with Nashville’s best opportunity coming when Arnott clanged one off the crossbar near the midway point, and for the visitors when Ryan Kesler rocketed a shot from 25 feet out on a quick counter attack shortly thereafter. The Canucks held a 7-3 shot advantage in the period.
Four minutes into the third frame the Canucks were awarded their second power play of the contest, and sustained a presence in the Nashville zone until claiming their first lead of the game at 8:10. It was the Sedin twins that connected on the marker, with Henrik feeding Daniel for his 10th tally of the campaign.
Taylor Pyatt tries to poke the puck away from Martin Gelinas in the second period.
“The Sedins have some great chemistry, and playing with Marcus Naslund helps,” Trotz said. “They are definitely one of the elite lines in the National Hockey League right now.”
Nashville’s sense of urgency picked up after the goal, but another untimely penalty doomed its comeback attempt. Eight seconds after David Legwand was whistled for interference, Daniel Sedin struck again, roofing one past Ellis from right in front at 12:26.
“We had a really strong first period, but in the second and third we kind of got away from what was giving us success, and that was getting pucks deep and to the net,” Ellis said. “They were able to lull us to sleep a bit and take advantage of their opportunities.”
After taking the two-goal lead, the Canucks went into defensive mode, clogging up the neutral zone and standing up the Preds at their own blue line. A 195-foot clear off the boards by Trevor Linden went into an empty net at 19:22 to ice the game away for Vancouver.
The Predators return to the Sommet Center ice on Saturday night (7 p.m. CT) when they host the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. Tickets are still available for this matchup, and can be purchased by calling (615) 770-PUCK, logging on to ticketmaster.com or nashvillepredators.com, and by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office located in the arena tower.
Said Arnott, “Any team you play now days is a tough one, so we just have to put this one behind us, correct our mistakes, move on and get ready for Anaheim on Saturday.”
GAME NOTES: Nashville scratched Kevin Klein, Scott Nichol and Vernon Fiddler from the lineup, and Vancouver sat Mike Brown and Mike Weaver… The Predators are 11-5-2 since Oct. 25 and 7-4-1 this season at the Sommet Center… Nashville is 3-4-0 against the Northwest Division this season, 10-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal and 3-2-1 when tied after 40 minutes… Martin Erat (2g-1a) and Arnott (1g-2a) both have three points in two games vs. Vancouver this year… For Dan Ellis, it was the first loss of his NHL career after starting with six consecutive wins. Ellis stopped 20 shots on the night… Ryan Suter led all Predators in ice time with 22:49 played… Greg Zanon blocked a team-high three shots… The next meeting between these two teams comes Feb. 21 at the Sommet Center.
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