The Canucks, who still hold down the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, saw their modest two-game winning streak come to an end.
Down 1-0 after two periods, Nashville tied it at 3:28 of the third when Smith ripped a shot upstairs past Luongo from the faceoff dot off a feed from Nick Spaling for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
The Predators kept pushing as the period wore on, with their No. 6-ranked power play getting a couple of chances, but the Canucks penalty kill — which sits second in the NHL this season — held firm until Jones scored his fifth of the season at 12:38.
The 19-year-old rookie fired a shot from the point that appeared to go off something in front of Luongo with just three seconds left on the Nashville man advantage.
Vancouver's 25th-ranked power play had a late chance before Higgins was denied by Hutton off the rush.
After a scoreless first period, Higgins broke the deadlock at 9:09 of the second with his 13th of the season on a nifty deflection. Canucks forward Dale Weise took a pass from defenceman Christopher Tanev at the point and floated a shot towards the Nashville net that Higgins tipped up and over a helpless Hutton for his first goal in seven games.
All 13 of Higgins' goals have come at even strength and Thursday's effort was just Vancouver's eighth goal overall in the last seven contests.
The Canucks' power play, which was listless in the first, wasn't much better in the second with defenceman Jason Garrison blasting a shot from the point midway though the period that Hutton handled.
Nashville showed a little bit of life offensively as the period wore on but didn't really threaten Luongo's crease in a game that played out mostly between the blue-lines through 40 minutes.
The Canucks were again without head coach John Tortorella, who served the second game during his 15-day suspension for attempting to get into the Calgary Flames' locker-room after Saturday's line brawl.
Vancouver was also missing captain Henrik Sedin and fellow forward Mike Santorelli. Thought to be nursing rib and finger injuries, Sedin saw his iron man streak of 679 straight games come to an end when he sat out Tuesday's 2-1 road victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Santorelli, meanwhile, missed his third in a row, also with an upper-body injury.
The Canucks could have used both in a sluggish first period that saw them generate just four shots during six minutes of power-play time. After Predators forward Matt Cullen was assessed a double minor for high sticking, Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis failed to connect on six straight backdoor passes at the side of Hutton's net.
Notes: Canucks defenceman Ryan Stanton returned to the lineup after missing the last 15 games with an ankle injury. Earlier in the day, the Canucks assigned forward Jordan Schroeder to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint. He's been out since October following ankle surgery. ... The Canucks downed the Predators 3-1 in Nashville on Dec. 1. The teams play the final game of the season series March 19 at Rogers Arena. ... The Canucks play the second game of a four-game homestand on Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes. ... The Predators continue a four-game road trip on Friday against the Calgary Flames.
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