NASHVILLE -- When the Predators traded last Friday for defenseman Hal Gill, they were hoping the acquisition would provide them with multiple benefits.
They wanted to take hard minutes off of their All-Star defense duo of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Check.
They wanted to bolster their penalty-killing. Check.
They wanted to add experience and leadership. Check.
In the Predators' 3-1 win over Vancouver on Tuesday, Gill helped in all of the above departments, picking up a shorthanded assist on the game-winning goal and helping to keep the Canucks' top-ranked power play off the board, in his home debut at Bridgestone Arena.
The loss was Vancouver's first in regulation since Jan. 15, a span of 14 games.
Last year in the playoffs, Vancouver ousted Nashville in the second round in six games, as Ryan Kesler totaled 11 points. He and Gill squared off at times on Tuesday, with Gill knocking Kesler to the ice on one occasion while bouncing off him on another.
"Hal was real strong all night," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He goes back there and their big bodies can't really affect him and take him off the puck a whole lot. And then on the penalty kill, he covers a lot of space….
"There's a big difference when he's on the ice."
The win was Nashville's second in two games since Gill joined the lineup. Nashville was 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and Weber and Suter, who average north of 26 minutes in time on ice, both played less than 24 minutes on Tuesday. The Predators sent minor leaguers Blake Geoffrion and Rob Slaney (along with a second-round pick) to Montreal for Gill and a conditional fifth-round pick.
Mike Fisher had a three-point night for the Preds while matching up against the Canucks' line of Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows who were a combined minus-5. Fisher was scratched on Sunday with the flu and Trotz said he was worried about Fisher's energy level. "I don't know what they put in the IV," Fisher quipped, "but I guess I'll take another one."
Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for Nashville in earning his 33rd win, as he took over sole possession of the League lead in that department and Nashville pulled within three points of St. Louis for fourth in the Western Conference.
The victory allowed the Predators to win the season series (2-1-1). They lost a shootout two weeks ago to the day against Vancouver, which entered the game 14-2-4 in 20 games since the start of the New Year. Trotz said he did not find winning the season series especially meaningful, although last year Vancouver won all three games in Nashville during the postseason series, so the coach was happy to have vanquished that demon.
Fisher found more significance in it.
"It's huge," he said. "They're a top team that's playing real, real well and played us tough last year. To get some wins against them is pretty solid for us and we played well."
Nashville had to kill its second penalty within a four-minute span in the middle of the second period, when Gill picked up his eighth assist on the season. He put his 6-foot-7 reach to use, diving for a puck deep in Nashville's zone near the left boards. Fisher raced up the wing with it, creating a 2-on-1. Fisher backhanded a pass across to Sergei Kostitsyn, who roofed his 15th goal at 13:16 to give Nashville a 2-0 lead.
"We're just pressuring them," Gill said of the play. "Those guys are pretty good players if they have time and space and have a tendency to make plays. We were trying to force them as much as we could. I just needed to dive there to poke it past him and it got by him and those guys did a good job of making something out of it."
Nashville got the game's first goal at 5:42 of the second period after Vancouver's Henrik Sedin earned a tripping call on Craig Smith in the Predators' defensive zone. On the ensuing power play, defenseman Ryan Suter made a pass through the slot from high on the right side down low to Fisher who stuffed it in for his team-leading 18th goal. Fisher had missed the last game with an illness. It was Fisher's 11th goal since Jan. 14 (16 games played).
Vancouver took advantage of a turnover and finally got one past Rinne at 16:52 of the second period on its 25th shot of the game. First, Nashville defenseman Roman Josi fell down along the boards with the puck. Then, David Legwand lost control it down low and Vancouver fourth-liner Dale Weise took advantage, skating in alone, faking and beating Rinne high with a backhand.
David Legwand slapped in an insurance goal with 2:51 left in regulation for Nashville on a pass across from Martin Erat. Fisher had the secondary assist on the play.
Vancouver's next game is a showdown at Detroit among the West's top two teams, as the Canucks will attempt to end the Red Wings' League-record home winning streak at 23 games. In the third period on Tuesday, Nashville hit the post twice and Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (25 saves) made two great saves, a glove save along the ice on Shea Weber's breakaway and a left pad save on Brandon Yip, who was in alone.
The Canucks will need to be better against Detroit.
"In the third period, they took their game up a notch and they were the better team," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "They had way more opportunities than we did. They deserved to win…"