VANCOUVER -- A couple of rookies helped keep the Vancouver Canucks' slim hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs alive a little longer.
Recent call-up Nicklas Jensen snapped a scoreless tie 6:06 into the third period and Alexander Edler added a power-play goal 1:13 later to lead the Canucks to a 2-0 win against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.
First-year goalie Eddie Lack made 30 saves for his rookie-leading fourth shutout of the season as the Canucks (32-30-10) moved within three points of the Phoenix Coyotes in the race for the second Western Conference wild-card position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vancouver has 10 games left in the regular season and doesn't play again until Sunday. The Coyotes have 13 and the Dallas Stars, who are one point ahead of the Canucks, have 14 games to play.
"It was a must win for us," said captain Henrik Sedin, who set up both goals. "If we lose and things don't go our way the next couple days we are out of it. Now we get a few days of scoreboard watching and hope for losses for teams around us and we're back in it."
Jensen has played a big role in keeping the Canucks in it as they alternated between wins and losses for a seventh straight game. He opened the scoring after Sedin lost the puck in the slot, only to see it bounce right to the rookie forward inside the right faceoff dot for a quick wrist shot over Carter Hutton's glove.
"When he gets chances he can put the puck in the net," Sedin said.
It was Jensen's third goal in four games, and his fifth point in seven games since being called up from the American Hockey League and put on the top line.
"It's being confident and not panicking and just trying to put it on net," Jensen said of his shot, which went just under the crossbar. "The fact the coach gives me that opportunity is really good, but at the same time you have to show you want to be in those situations too."
Jensen's latest goal may have been costly, however, as linemate Alexandre Burrows threw off his left glove after appearing to take a slash from Shea Weber as the puck went into the net. Burrows, who snapped a 35-game goal drought with five goals in the past four games after Jensen was put on his line, went straight to the dressing room. He returned to play four shifts, but will re-evaluated on Thursday.
Edler doubled the lead on Vancouver's only power play. Sedin won the ensuing faceoff after defenseman Victor Bartley, who was in the lineup for surprise scratch Michael Del Zotto, was called for interference. Kevin Bieksa fed the puck across to Edler for a one-timer that beat Hutton low on the glove side.
Hutton started for the Predators one night after replacing Pekka Rinne midway through the third period of a 5-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers, and finished with 20 saves. But Nashville was shut out for the ninth time, tying the Buffalo Sabres for the most in the NHL.
"We've got to get some goals for our goaltender," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "Carter Hutton had a good game for us. We need some production from our forwards. We've got virtually zero. If our defense aren't scoring, we're not scoring it seems like."
Nashville's third straight loss dropped the Predators (29-31-10) six points behind Vancouver and nine behind the Coyotes for the second wild-card spot. Unlike the loss in Edmonton the night before, however, Trotz was happy with his team's effort against the Canucks.
"Our compete level [against the Oilers] wasn't at the level I expect the Nashville Predators to be at, and tonight it was," Trotz said. "I didn't have any passengers tonight. Last night I couldn't say that."
Trotz said it was his choice to sit out Del Zotto, who was acquired from the New York Rangers in a trade for fellow defenseman Kevin Klein on Jan. 22. Del Zotto has three assists in 18 games since the trade.
"I just need him to be more consistent," Trotz said. "He's played pretty good but his game slipped and our coaching staff has been talking to him about making really solid decisions, solid plays and he's gotten away from that a little bit. I have high expectations for Del Zotto so when he doesn't meet those sometimes you just need to sit out and watch how the game is played. Hopefully it got his attention."
Nashville also lost center Paul Gaustad to an upper-body injury late in the first period. Gaustad appeared to hit his head on the ice after being taken down by Edler on a partial break. Gaustad, who has nine goals and 16 points in 70 games, was slow to get up, then went straight to the dressing room and did not return. There was no update after the game, and he is listed as day to day.
The Canucks, coming off a four-game road trip that ended with a 4-3 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, needed 8:27 to record their first shot and were outshot 14-7 in the first period. Lack, who was making his 12th straight start, was forced to make his best three saves on Patric Hornqvist, including a couple of great point-blank chances late in the first period.
It was a good bounce back performance for Lack, who gave up six third-period goals in a loss against the New York Islanders his last home game, and struggled at times during the recent road trip.
"I'm the first one to say I haven't got to my best so far and it feels good coming out with a shutout tonight for sure," Lack said.
The Canucks are counting on the 26-year-old rookie, who has started all nine since No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers.
"He's shown some unbelievable poise," Sedin said. "For a guy in his first year where everyone thought he was going to play 15 games to come in and steal the No. 1 job, he had some tough games on the road but comes back here in a must win and plays solid for us."
|Alexander Edler Slashing against Viktor Stalberg|
|David Booth Hooking against Mike Fisher|
|Victor Bartley Interference against Zac Dalpe|
|Shawn Matthias Hooking against Seth Jones|
|Chris Higgins Hi-sticking against Ryan Ellis|