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Predators try to even series in Vancouver

by Dan Rosen

(Canucks lead best-of-seven series, 1-0)


Big story
-- The Canucks are looking to take a 2-0 lead before the series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 next week. Vancouver needed only a goal from Chris Higgins and 20 saves from Roberto Luongo to knock off the Predators in Game 1 at Rogers Arena on Thursday. They outshot Nashville 30-20 and won 61 percent of the faceoffs (40-26). The effort was praised by coach Alain Vigneault, who realized how emotional the series was against the Blackhawks but was happy with the tempo his team established early against the Predators. Meanwhile, Nashville coach Barry Trotz was not happy with the work ethic he saw from his group of forwards.

Team Scope:

-- They talk about playing Predators' hockey, but the folks in Vancouver aren't sure what that means because the Predators didn't show their hockey in Game 1. Without question Pekka Rinne was flat-out awesome, especially with his glove hand, which for some reason the Canucks kept trying to challenge. Trotz didn't mind the effort he got out of his defensemen, one through six. However, he lambasted the commitment shown by his forwards, one through 12.

"I thought we'd be ready. I thought we had a pretty good idea of what was going to come at us, but we need everybody," Trotz said. "We win and lose as a group of 20 every night, and we had way too many passengers. Especially at this high level of competition in the second round, you can't play the way we did. We had a couple of games in the playoffs where we were on the other side and won all the 50-50 pucks. Tonight we didn't win any of those, especially up front."

The Predators admit they have to step it up a notch because the level in this round against the President's Trophy winners is higher than it was in the last round. They need to be better in the faceoff circle, and if they are they need to find a way to play with the puck deep in the Canucks' zone. Luongo didn't look like he had broken a sweat after Game 1 -- that can't happen again.

Canucks -- Vancouver has scored only three goals in its last two games, but it has won them both. The Canucks, the NHL's No. 1 scoring team during the regular season, have scored only 17 goals in eight playoff games but it's been good enough to knock off the Blackhawks and take Game 1 from the Predators.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined for 12 shots on goal in Game 1, but neither cashed in and they now have only 3 points and a minus-13 rating in the last five games. The offense in Game 1 came from a third line that looks every bit as dangerous now as the top line. Maxim Lapierre set up Higgins for the goal. The other forward on that line, Jannik Hansen, also played a solid game.

"So far every game we've played them this year they've been low scoring," Luongo said. "Who knows what is going to come in the future, but we want to play a certain way and whether that's going to generate a lot of goals or not doesn't really matter. What matters at the end of the day are wins."

Who's hot -- Luongo has stopped 51 of the last 52 shots he's faced since allowing Blackhawks winger Ben Smith to score the overtime winner in Game 6 of the first round. Still, Luongo has allowed only two goals over his last 147:21. ... Rinne made 29 of 30 saves in Game 1.

Injury report -- Canucks defenseman Sami Salo is day to day with an undisclosed injury.

Stat pack -- Higgins also scored the Canucks' first goal in Game 1 against Chicago, and that one also turned out to be the game-winner. ... The Canucks outdrew the Predators 22-3 in faceoffs in the first period of Game 1. ... In five games against Nashville this season, Vancouver's power play is 0-for-19. It was 0-for-5 Thursday. ... In five games against Vancouver this season Nashville's power play is 1-for-21. It was similarly 0-for-5 Thursday.

Puck drop -- "You can't compare everything to Game 7 against Chicago because it was a unique experience and a unique feeling," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "I think for a playoff game it was a great atmosphere."

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