Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Vancouver Canucks
David Legwand's attempt to cap a two-on-two rush late in the third period is stopped by goaltender Alex Auld's brilliant save.
Steve Sullivan scored two third-period goals to force a sudden-death overtime period that David Legwand
ended in just six seconds on a tally that gave the Predators a 3-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night in GM Place. The win marked the first time the Predators have beaten the Canucks in Vancouver since January 23, 2000. With consecutive wins and the capture of five of the six available points so far on the current four-game road trip, Nashville is now 37-19-7 for the season.
"It's been great," Predators associate coach Brent Peterson said of his team's return to form on the West Coast swing. Nashville, now 3-1-1 in its last five, opened the trip with a 3-2 overtime loss in Edmonton Sunday and followed that with a 3-2 win in Calgary on Tuesday. Nashville will close out the four road dates Saturday afternoon in San Jose. "Before we came out [on the trip], we talked about all the things that we weren't doing as well since about the middle of January. We got our work boots on then decided we needed to compete a little harder."
The Nashville players also decided to shoot more in Vancouver, besting an opponent in the shots category for the first time in five games. Both the Predators and Canucks authored strong performances, creating many chances in the offensive ends while blocking a lot of shots in their own zones. For most of the game, the Predators' speed won out against Vancouver's more bruising play. Nashville's lone lull began around the 6:00 mark of the second and culminated with the Canucks netting the first goal of the contest at 7:19. Forward Anson Carter, who had been robbed by Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun at least a half-dozen times when the teams faced-off at the Gaylord Entertainment Center last Thursday, lit the lamp when he converted a diving backhand feed from linemate Daniel Sedin.
Despite a number of quality chances, the Predators weren't able to finish one off until 8:40 of the third, when Sullivan put the cherry on top of a beautifully executed power play. Mike Sillinger had been set up twice for threatening one-timers from the slot seconds before Paul Kariya retrieved the puck behind the net and began the sequence that would tie the game at 1-1. Kariya dealt the puck to Legwand in the right circle, and Legwand in turn sent another pass to Sillinger in the slot. This time, however, Sillinger made a quick one-touch pass to Kariya, who had moved to the right of the goal. Vancouver goaltender Alex Auld dove for the puck when it left Kariya's stick as a pass en route to Sullivan in the left circle. The bang-bang play left the Canucks a step behind and provided Sullivan with an open net in which to fire his franchise-record 27th goal of the season.
"We had the puck a long time and we made great plays," Peterson said of that particular power play. "We shot it and we had rebounds and we jumped on the puck. We made seam passes. We executed to a T and it ended up in the goal. It was a great play. A great goal."
Henrik Sedin scored for Vancouver less than two-and-a-half minutes later on a nice deflection, but again the Predators came back to tie. A blueline-to-blueline outlet pass from Legwand missed Martin Erat, but the intended target used his foot speed to beat the Canucks to the puck behind their net. From there, Erat hit Sullivan with a pass at the base of the right circle. Sullivan smoothly backed up to the face-off dot and, like a marksman, ripped a slapshot just inside the upper right corner, making it 2-2 at 14:27.
The last five minutes of the third were played at a frenetic pace and included a number of glorious scoring opportunities for the Predators. A bullet from Kariya glanced off the shoulder of Auld and out of play. A two-on-two rush by Erat and Legwand ended with the latter being stymied by an incredible flailing save. Seconds later, Erat hit the post with a drive. Nashville went on to outshoot Vancouver 22-6 over the final 20 minutes, but could not deposit a third goal before the end of regulation.
Ironically, the Predators needed only one shot in overtime to decide the contest. Vancouver's Brendan Morrison beat David Legwand on the face-off that opened the five-minute, four-on-four session, with the puck sliding back to defenseman Nolan Baumgartner. Baumgartner immediately turned toward the Canucks zone with the intention of passing to his defense partner, Bryan Allen, but Baumgartner only nicked the puck and inadvertently sent it across the middle of his team's blue line at about a quarter of its intended pace. Legwand seized the opportunity to beat everyone to the puck and curled with it into the top of the right circle before squaring and shooting. Using Allen as a screen, Legwand released a forehand shot that beat Auld high to the far side. Six seconds into the sudden-death period, it was over.
"I think we're learning how to win on the road...and we're learning how to compete," Peterson said. "Every game is a tough game because all of these teams are so good and it's a tight race. They're big points for us. We've always played good in Edmonton and Calgary and got points, but we've never played really well [in Vancouver]. So it was a big confidence builder."
Notes: With 81 points in the standings now, Nashville has accumulated the second-highest number of points for a season in franchise history. The record is 91 set in 2003-04. The team is also one win away from tying the franchise record for wins in a season (38)... Nashville is now 7-7 in overtime games in 2005-06... Steve Sullivan's two goals Thursday were his 27th and 28th of the season, breaking the Predators' record for most goals by an individual in one season. Cliff Ronning had previously held the record with 26, set in 1999-2000. Sullivan has scored more than 28 goals only once in his career--34 with Chicago in 2000-01. His first goal was a power-play tally, giving him a team-leading 12 on the season. Sullivan has posted back-to-back multi-point games and has four points over his last two matches (2g-2a). He has 16 multiple-point games this season. He also posted five shots and a +2 rating Thursday... The Predators are 22-12 in one-goal games... David Legwand's goal, scored six seconds into the overtime period, shattered the franchise record for fastest goal by a Predator from the start of overtime. Legwand held the previous record of 32 seconds, set on April 4, 2004 in a 2-1 win over Colorado. He also scored what now becomes the third fastest goal too--36 seconds, set in a 4-3 win over Phoenix on March 29, 2001. He added an assist on Sullivan's second goal vs. Vancouver and now has four points over his last two games (3g-1a). Thursday marked his third multi-point performance of the season. He also posted four shots and finished the game with a +2 rating... Tomas Vokoun made 23 saves on 25 shots to earn his 31st win of the season, which ranks him second among NHL goalies in victories... Nashville's power play finished the night one-for-four, while the penalty killers were a perfect four-for-four... The Predators committed six penalties in the game, all in the first period... Mike Sillinger posted an assist on Sullivan's first goal to extend his points streak to four games. He has four points (1g-3a) in that span and has points in five of his last six games... Paul Kariya assisted on Sullivan's power-play goal, giving him three points (1g-2a) in his last four games and seven points (2g-5a) in his last seven games. He continues to lead the team in assists (41), points (61) and power-play points (33)... Martin Erat posted the primary assist on Sullivan's second goal... Nashville's road record improved to 14-13-6... Dan Hamhuis and Jordin Tootoo each registered a game-high five hits against Vancouver. Tootoo logged a season-high 13:11 of ice time... Defenseman Shea Weber logged a career-high 20:09 of ice time. He finished the game with a +1 rating and one blocked shot... Defenseman Kevin Klein, whom the Predators recalled from Milwaukee prior to the game on Thursday, played in his second career NHL game... Scratches for Nashville were Scottie Upshall, Vernon Fiddler and Kimmo Timonen... Attendance at GM Place was 18,630, a sellout.
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