Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal between the Canucks and Predators was a carbon copy of Game 1 with the home team clinging to a 1-0 lead in the dying minutes. Unlike Game 1, however, Nashville scored with 67 seconds left to force the 47th overtime in franchise history for Vancouver.
The Canucks were outplayed in regulation on this night, but not in the third longest overtime in team history as they outshot the Predators 18-10 in nearly 35 minutes of added time, only to have Matt Halischuk beat Roberto Luongo for the game-winner to even the series up at 1-1.
From a best-of-seven to a best-of-five, this series was turned up a notch Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
Eerily enough, after a scoreless opening period, Vancouver was first to the scoreboard in the second frame, same as in Game 1, with Alex Burrows scoring shorthanded. The first three Canucks penalties, handed out to Mikael Samuelsson, Christian Ehrhoff and a team minor for too many men, also mirrored Game 1.
Everything was primed for a déjà vu 1-0 Canucks win, Luongo shutout, until Ryan Suter scored what Henrik Sedin described as a “goofy goal”; after three replays I’m still not sure how the puck snuck past Luongo, but it did.
The Canucks dominated play in overtime and had several chances to take a 2-0 series lead, most notably Daniel Sedin and Kevin Bieksa were both robbed point-blank by Pekka Rinne, the puck-stopping robot who masquerades as a human goaltender.
Once the second overtime hit and fans were treated to an early preview of the 40th annual BMO Vancouver Marathon, the Canucks again kicked it up a notch and Rinne refused to budge. He stalled long enough for Halischuk to beat Luongo stop shelf for his first career playoff game-winning goal.
"It's never fun to lose in overtime,” said Luongo, who had 44 saves. “We had our chances, unfortunately, Pekka made some good saves and kept them in it."
Captain Henrik Sedin said the lack of punch from the Canucks in regulation, in which Vancouver matched a playoff franchise record low for shots with 15, was because of how the Predators forced the puck into the opposing end and forechecked hard to keep it there.
Then, when Vancouver was in primed scoring position, an extra pass or two foiled things.
With only two goals for in two games, and just 18 in nine playoff games, the Canucks need to start finding the back of the net.
“You want to score more goals, that’s the bottom line,” said Henrik, who had one shot in 31:25 of ice time. “We have to bare down on the chances we get, in overtime too we had a lot of chances to finish it off. That’s something we need to take a look at.”
Kevin Bieksa, for one, doesn’t mind winning 1-0 games, as long as the Canucks are winning. What bothers the blueliner is giving up another late goal for the second time in three games. I think you remember the Jonathan Toews goal from Game 7.
“We’re not happy with that, we realize it’s a 60 minute game and for whatever reason we’re not getting the job done towards the end of the game. The responsibility is on us to bare down.”
The Canucks and Predators meet again on Tuesday with the series shifting to Nashville for Games 3 & 4. Game 5, which is now confirmed, goes down next Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
Thoughts on Game 2…
"I think you’ve got to give them a lot of credit, obviously they played a solid game. Real good first 60 minutes where they didn’t give us much and our execution was off. We get four odd-number situations in the second period and we don’t even get a shot, we get a 3-on-1 and we fan on it and they come back 3-on-1. Give them credit, they played a good game."
On needing more offence from Daniel and Henrik Sedin…
"They’re our top players and obviously we need them to perform like top players. I know they’re working real hard, sometimes you’ve got to give the opposition some credit."
On giving up goals late in the third period…
"That tying goal was sort of a lucky break and sometimes those are things that are going to happen. I think it’s how you respond and I thought we responded well in OT, I thought we had some great chances to win the game, but we weren’t able to beat a real good goaltender. It was a great goaltender battle tonight."
Roberto Luongo was 67 seconds from becoming the second Canucks goaltender to record back-to-back playoff shutouts, Kirk McLean is the only other Vancouver tender to perform the feat, he did it in the 1994 Western Conference Final versus Toronto; Alex Burrows’ shorthanded goal was his first ever in the playoffs and the 15th of his career overall; singer Elvis Costello performed with The Odds prior to puck drop Saturday night.