Photo by John Russell
Forward Scott Hartnell, who scored twice Thursday, positions himself to tip a shot in front of Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo.
Scott Hartnell posted two goals and an assist and Paul Kariya registered three helpers as the Nashville Predators cruised to a 6-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Leading 2-0 after 20 minutes, the Predators exploded for four second-period goals to push the lead to 6-0 by the second intermission. Nashville's fifth goal--Hartnell's second of the night--forced the Canucks to replace starting goaltender Dany Sabourin with Roberto Luongo. Sabourin returned again at the start of the third--the same time that Chris Mason came in for Predators starter Tomas Vokoun, who left the game with a hand injury. Vokoun will be evaluated on Friday.
The win pushes the Predators' record to 14-5-2 for the season and 6-1-2 against Northwest Division opponents. Nashville takes a three-point lead in the Central Division standings over the Detroit Red Wings, who were idle Thursday. The Preds and the Wings will meet at the GEC on Saturday. Less than 1,000 tickets remain. Tickets can be ordered online or by calling 615-770-PUCK.
The Predators started off slowly on Thursday but soon had momentum going in their direction once Alexander Radulov made it 1-0 just 2:43 into the game.
"I think the first couple of shifts we were a little bit slow out of the gate, then we started getting our feet under us," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "I really thought we got contributions all over the lineup. Early it was the young guys like Radulov and [Jordin] Tootoo that got us going...then we got a fantastic save in the second period when it was 2-0. I think it turned the game totally in our favor."
That save, for which Vokoun lunged and kicked out his right leg to deny a prime chance by Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, came with just over eight minutes expired in the second period. Two minutes after that, Hartnell scored his first of the night to give Nashville a three-goal cushion.
Hartnell's tally, which came on the power play, was the finish of a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play. Forward Martin Erat had the puck above the right circle, cut toward the center of the ice, and sent a pass down to Kariya to the right of the Vancouver net. Kariya quickly found Hartnell free in front for a simple redirection past Sabourin at 10:09.
"Marty and Paul Kariya are great players on the power play--tons of points," Hartnell said. "It was the right place at the right time and I was just able to get it over his pad. First goal in a long time for myself. Nice to get that goal."
Nashville's next goal developed from the right side as well. Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky had the puck at the right point and beat a defender along the wall to move down to the right corner. He then pulled the puck through the legs of a second Canucks player and walked out unimpeded to the Vancouver net, finishing the play with a nifty backhander high to the short side. Zidlicky's goal, his second of the season, made it 4-0 at 12:20.
Hartnell, Nashville's No. 17, made it 5-0 just 17 seconds later when he perfectly deflected a right point shot from Shea Weber over the glove of Sabourin. Generating deflections is a skill Hartnell practices almost religiously, and the work paid off for his second of the game and seventh of the season.
"I think it's something you can always get better at," Hartnell said. "Tipping 30 or 40 pucks after practice helps the hand-eye coordination."
Luongo replaced Sabourin at that point, and 10 seconds later Predators forward Scott Nichol and Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows dropped the gloves for a spirited fight that kept the momentum heading in Nashville's direction.
The Predators dented Luongo at 16:20 of the second. Nashville was once again on the power play and Weber teed up a slapshot from the right point. Hartnell was again in front of the goalie, but this time Weber's blast went in cleanly to make it 6-0.
In the first period, Alexander Radulov and Darcy Hordichuk scored 1:52 apart early on to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. Radulov scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Scott Nichol at 2:43, then Hordichuk deflected a Tootoo shot from the right circle at 4:31. The second goal was originally credited to Tootoo before being changed.
"It actually deflected off the middle of my shaft," Hordichuk said of his first goal of the season. "I was skating toward the net and it deflected. It wasn't too big of an argument because Tootoo told the ref right away that it was mine. I definitely owe him, but I think I've protected him enough in a few fights that he can do it once in a while for me. Not that he needs [the protection]."
The Predators seemed to be back on their heels early until Radulov captured the momentum with his third goal of the season. Nichol carried the puck over the offensive blue line on the left side and sent the puck across the slot to Radulov, who was streaking through the right circle. Radulov's one-timer found open net as Sabourin was moving laterally to recover.
The Predators won the special teams battle, going 2-for-8 with the manpower advantage and killing off all four power plays they faced. The Canucks outshot Nashville 34-28 for the game, while Vokoun and Mason shared the club's third shutout of the season.
NOTES: Nashville has outscored opponents 27-11 in the second period this season... The Predators improved to 4-0-1 in the second half of back-to-back matches... Nashville is off to its second-best start in franchise history with a record of 14-5-2 (30 points) after 21 games. The Predators began the 2005-06 season with eight straight wins and were 14-4-3 (31 points) after their first 21 tilts... The Predators have not allowed a power-play goal in their last three games (13-13)... Paul Kariya (4g-17a-21pts) and Steve Sullivan (6g-15a-21pts) are tied for the team lead in scoring. Kariya, who had three helpers, leads the club with 17 assists and has eight points (1g-7a) in his last six games... David Legwand has six points (3g-3a) in his last six games... Alexander Radulov notched his first career multi-point game with a goal and an assist... Scott Hartnell, who had a goal and two assists, is now tied with Jason Arnott for the team lead in goals (7). Hartnell needs three more penalty minutes to match Scott Walker as the Predator's all-time leader (460)... Shea Weber posted a goal and an assist and leads club d-men in scoring (4g-9a-13pts).