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Power Play Misses on Major Opportunity; Preds Fall to Canucks

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators power play connected twice on Tuesday night, but was unable to convert when the club needed it most.

Nashville went 2-for-7 with the man advantage against the NHL’s fourth-ranked penalty kill unit, but couldn’t score on a five-minute PP late in regulation and fell to the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 in a shootout.

“It’s our job to score,” Filip Forsberg said of the five-minute PP opportunity. “We scored two goals on the power play, but if we get five minutes and an opportunity to win the game, we have to take that.”

The Canucks answered Predators’ leads of 2-0 and 3-2 to even the game at 1:23 of the third period. Just over five minutes later, the visitors took their first lead of the night off of Chris Higgins’ power-play goal.

“We took our foot off of the gas early [in the second] and got put on our heels a little bit,” Nashville blueliner Cody Franson said. “We didn’t answer the bell right away, but I thought we finished the period strong. We hit a couple posts and had some chances and created some offensive zone time, but it’s not the full 60-minute effort that we’re striving for. We need to clean up those small pockets.”

Mike Fisher’s 19th evened the game at 4-4 with 5:03 remaining in the third. Sixty-nine seconds later, the Canucks Alex Burrows was assessed a five-minute penalty for his hit to the head of Paul Gaustad. Provided a prime chance to put the game away, Nashville couldn’t find their third power-play goal of the evening over the remaining minutes of regulation and into overtime.

“You definitely want to score a goal if you get a five-minute [power play] at the end of the game,” Preds D-man Roman Josi said. “That’s a huge opportunity to win the game and we had a couple chances, but we’ve just got to find away to score a goal there.”

“We had a couple of good chances,” Franson said. “Their goalie made a big save at the end of the period. He made another good save during the 4-on-3 in overtime and unfortunately we came up short in the shootout. You try not to get too low with shootout wins or losses and try to keep that even keel moving forward.”

Once the contest reached a shootout, the Canucks scored twice while Mike Santorelli and Forsberg were turned away by Eddie Lack. Vancouver’s 45th win of the season staved off a three-game season sweep for Nashville.

The Predators now enter a three-day game break between contests. The club from Music City will next take to the ice at Bridgestone Arena for a Saturday matchup with the Dallas Stars.

Paul Gaustad Hit:

With four minutes remaining in the third period, Preds forward Paul Gaustad took a hit to the head from the Canucks Alex Burrows. Nashville’s center was skating closely behind the Vancouver forward as the pair exited the Canucks’ zone when Gaustad was hit up high.

Burrows received a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. Canucks D-man Kevin Bieksa was given a 10-minute misconduct after taunting Gaustad while the 33-year-old laid prone on the ice.

“The refs made the right call,” Mike Fisher said of the hit on Gaustad. “That was a cheap shot. Hopefully Paul is going to be OK, that’s the main thing. That was cheap.”

Both of the Canucks involved in the play were ejected from the contest. Earlier in the game, Bieska had been given a minor for a check to the head; the Predators scored on the ensuing power play in the first frame.

Franson Goes Full Circle:

Going into Tuesday night’s game, Cody Franson’s last goal as a Predators player had come during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals on May 5, 2011.

That was 1,420 days ago.

Coincidentally enough, Franson’s previous score as a member of the Nashville organization - the one coming three years, 10 months and 20 days ago - was also against the Vancouver Canucks. Tuesday’s tally came less than five minutes into the game on a Predators man advantage.

Franson’s goal in the first period on Tuesday was his first with the Predators since being reacquired via a trade with Toronto on Feb. 15.

“I think he has done well,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Franson. “He has a real good shot that he can get off quick, it’s hard and finds the net and finds a way through. The power play had close to 20 shots on net and probably 30 attempts. There were so many good looks that I would have liked to have seen more [goals on the power play].”

On Tuesday, the 6-foot-5 blueliner flashed the same quick-snap, wrist shot that he did on his goal years earlier in the playoffs - at least this one didn’t get stuck behind the goal camera.

Franson has filled in for Shea Weber (lower-body, day-to-day) on the power play with the Preds Captain out with an injury.

“With Webs being out, it’s given me a chance to get a little more involved [on the power play],” Franson said. “I’m fortunate for that, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

End Game:

With his 19th goal of the season, Mike Fisher is just one tally away from his seventh career 20-goal season. Fisher missed the first 21 games of the season with an Achilles injury. Tuesday was Fisher’s seventh multi-point effort of the campaign.

Anton Volchenkov has two assists in three games since returning to the lineup last Saturday against Washington. Taylor Beck has three goals in his last eight games and Viktor Stalberg has five points in his last eight outings.

Nashville is now 6-6 in shootouts this season. They finish the campaign with a 2-0-1 record against the Canucks.

The Preds lost a rare contest after scoring first and leading after two periods. Nashville is now 27-3-5 when notching the game’s first tally and also 27-3-5 when leading after 40 minutes.

James Neal (upper-body), Matt Cullen (lower-body), Shea Weber (lower-body) and Eric Nystrom (lower-body) all missed Tuesday's game due to injury.

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