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Goals at a premium as series shifts to Nashville

by Eric Goodman

(Best-of-seven series tied, 1-1)


Big story:
While the Canucks have experienced trouble scoring throughout these playoffs, it's tough to put the blame totally on their skaters for the series against Nashville. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has been a virtual highlight reel in turning aside 61 of 63 shots faced over the first two games of this series, with 18 of those mostly jaw-dropping saves coming in two overtime periods during Saturday's Game 2. The series shifts back to Nashville on Tuesday, where the clubs split their two-game regular-season series in 2010-11.

Team Scope:

Canucks: Vancouver had its share of chances in both games this series, but had a few golden opportunities missed in its 2-1 double overtime loss in Game 2. Jannik Hansen was set up perfectly at the end of the third period on passes from Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but couldn't capitalize. Then, defenseman Kevin Bieksa was denied late in the first overtime on a head-first diving save by Rinne that resembled what you'd expect to see in the latest NHL video game.

With the prospect of additional scoring opportunities on the horizon, the Canucks players aren't getting themselves too down on the fact that the series is tied and that they have only managed just two goals over the first two games.

"You got to look at the positives," captain Henrik Sedin said following Saturday's game. "We're in the second round, we're tied 1-1 and we got a chance to go down to Nashville and steal a game down there. As a team we're having a tough time getting goals, but that's going to happen."

Predators: The spectacular play of Rinne has overshadowed the fact that the Preds are struggling just as hard to score goals this series with only two tallies over the first two games. But being on the winning side of the longest playoff game in franchise history Saturday has given this club the confidence it needs as it returns home to Bridgestone Arena for Games 3 and 4.

Saturday's Game 2 was quite dramatic for Nashville as it received the tying goal off a wing-and-a-prayer type shot from defenseman Ryan Suter that snuck through Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo's legs, then knocked off the goalie's left skate and into the net with just 67 seconds left in regulation. After Rinne put on a goaltender clinic over the next two overtime periods, Matt Halischuk notched the game-winner with just over five minutes left in the second overtime.

"I was just trying to get it on net and get a whistle and got a fortunate bounce and went in," Suter said of his shot that turned into the series-saving tally thus far for his Predators.
Who's hot: In a series that has seen just four totals goals over the first two games, it is certainly both goaltenders that deserve the praise. Luongo blanked the Predators in Game 1 and leads all playoff goals with two shutouts in the playoffs. The Canucks goalie also had 44 saves in the Game 2 double-overtime loss. … Rinne has managed a .968 save percentage over the first two games of this semifinal series.

Injury report:
Canucks defenseman Sami Salo (undisclosed injury) is expected to travel with the club to Nashville but no announcement has yet been made on whether he will dress for Game 3.

Stat pack: It's true what they say about the regular season and the playoffs not having very much in common as the Canucks were first in the NHL with an average of 3.15 goals a game for the 2010-11 season, but are last among active teams in the playoffs with just 18 tallies through nine postseason games.

Puck drop:
Judging by the Canucks' potential to score in bunches, it would seem like only a matter of time when the pucks start finding the back of the net, so Rinne will need to continue his nearly perfect performance once again in Game 3.

"Peks is playing the best he's ever played, and I think that's probably the biggest thing," Suter said.

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