Photo by John Russell
Nashville forward Jerred Smithson celebrates his fifth goal of the season, which put Nashville up 4-0 8:28 into the third period.
Dan Hamhuis scored early in the first period to give the Nashville Predators a 1-0 lead over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and though that would have been enough to win with goaltender Tomas Vokoun pitching a shutout, the Predators added four more over the next two periods for a 5-0 victory. Steve Sullivan had three assists and Hamhuis and Scott Hartnell each had a goal and an assist in the win, which improves Nashville's record to 38-19-8 for the season.
Predators head coach Barry Trotz praised his club's well-rounded game, which resulted in 27 shots for Nashville and limited Vancouver to 31.
"There were a lot of good factors in our game, a lot of good things that we did--both sides of the puck," Trotz said. "Offensively we did some good things like shooting the puck and getting rebounds and going north-south. Defensively I thought we did a good job tracking and angling and deflecting a lot of the attack. Also, in a little bit of our forecheck we had lots of contact. We separated people from the puck in a lot of areas, especially deep in their zone, and got some chances. The players that play physical played physical and the skill guys played their skill game and contributed in the physical aspect when they could. That's how we're going to have to win. You need a number of different parts going. We had it tonight."
Vancouver, meanwhile, entered the game 0-3-1 in its last four, and the team seemed to fade as the game progressed.
"They were struggling lately," Sullivan said of the Canucks. "They had a tough one [Monday] night in Dallas, so they were coming in here a little bit tired. We had the fresh legs. We wanted to make sure we had a quick start, and go after them. After that we just kept pouring it on and they weren't able to probably respond like they wanted to and we were able to get a few more goals."
The quick start came courtesy of Hamhuis' goal, a short-handed tally 3:05 into the game. A four-on-four situation turned into a 21-second five-on-four power play for Vancouver when Jarkko Ruutu emerged from the penalty box at 2:50. The Canucks never touched the puck, however, as the Predators maintained possession and worked the puck from their end of the ice into Vancouver's. Adam Hall curled with the puck in the right circle and spotted Hamhuis open at the left point. Hamhuis took the pass and fired a long shot that found its way through traffic in front as well as Vancouver goalie Mika Noronen, who was screened on the play.
The goal was Hamhuis' third of the year, and the 23-year-old defenseman displayed a wide grin when asked about netting one to end a drought that dates back to Nov. 23. "It's been a really long time and I wasn't sure if I was going to get one again this year," he said. "One finally got through and in the net."
The Predators had a couple of chances to expand the lead during the opening 20 minutes--Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund blocked Mike Sillinger's point-blank shot to save a likely goal around the 5:00 mark and at roughly 12:20, Martin Erat's through-the-slot pass intended for Greg Johnson deflected off a defender then off the goal post--but the 1-0 margin would stand until 8:28 of the second period. The Predators, who had been practicing deflecting point shots into the net during Tuesday's morning skate, put practice into play and made it 2-0 when Jordin Tootoo stationed himself in the slot and executed a nice deflection on a right-point shot by defenseman Brendan Witt.
Forward Scottie Upshall, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing three games with a hip injury, made it 3-0 at 15:55 of the second when Hamhuis' deflected point shot came to him in the left circle.
"I just pretty much had to put it in the open net," Upshall said. "[Noronen] was out of position. I think the puck just deflected over right onto my tape. You take those as they come. Those are ones where you love to get 'em because you work so hard to get chances. And then some chances you don't score, and some you do. You've got to take them in stride."
Photo by John Russell
Solid defensive play by the Predators--including blueliner Brendan Witt (center) in his home debut--limited the number of shots against goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
Darcy Hordichuk, who had delivered some clean, hard checks earlier in the game, was whistled for charging and unsportsmanlike conduct 2:23 before the second intermission. Vokoun made the save of the night on the power play that followed, moving quickly from left to right in his net to stymie Anson Carter with an unbelievable stop. Daniel Sedin, skating along the goal line to Vokoun's left, threaded a pass to Carter on the edge of the crease to Vokoun's right. When Carter released his shot, Vokoun was there.
"There's nobody that deserves a shutout more than Tomas Vokoun," Trotz said. "He made a couple of saves in the second period that were world class. He had his game on and that was good to see."
The double minor to Hordichuk carried over into the third, and the Predators came up with a number of key plays to keep Vancouver on the ropes. With less than half a minute gone in the final period, a misplay of the puck by Daniel Sedin turned into a short-handed scoring chance for Johnson from the left wing. The shot ricocheted off the helmet of Noronen. About 40 seconds later, Witt made a great play to tie up Marcus Naslund at the right post as a pass from Todd Bertuzzi went by. Shortly after the power play ended, Tootoo laid a big hit on Ohlund, and Upshall and David Legwand displayed sheer determination as they worked to clear the puck from their defensive zone with less than 3:00 gone.
Nashville made it 4-0 on a goal by Jerred Smithson 8:28 into the third. Sullivan had gained the offensive zone at the left point when he made a blind pass backward between his legs that connected perfectly with Smithson charging along the left wall. Smithson cut through the left circle to the net and put a shot past Noronen high to the short side. Sullivan also set up the Predators' final goal, as he skated toward the Canucks net on left wing and stopped sharply at the bottom of the left circle. He then sent a pass across the slot to Scott Hartnell entering the right circle, and Hartnell ripped the puck by Noronen as he dove to attempt a save. That made it 5-0 at 10:31 of the third. Vancouver never really threatened in the final 10 minutes as Nashville and Vokoun buckled down to preserve the shutout.
"The score certainly dictated [the solid overall defensive play], but our goaltender was superb tonight," Hamhuis said. "He covered up a lot of rebounds and made some huge cross-crease saves. But at the same time we didn't allow 40 shots against a skilled team and that's something we can be happy about."
"On our road trip we sat down in Calgary before last [Tuesday's] game and had a little meeting amongst ourselves and thought that we were giving up too many chances," Upshall said. "We were letting Vokoun just swim in the water by himself. Lately...we've been coming back strong [on defensive coverage] and not just thinking 'Offense! Offense!' We've overcome our defensive liability status that we've had, [now that] Witt [is] in the lineup. He's been huge for us back there. It's a good sign going into the last 20 games here, knowing that we're going to have to play solid defense during the playoffs."
Notes: The Predators secured their 38th win of the season Tuesday, tying the franchise record set in 2003-04. They are now 19 games over .500 for only the second time (Jan. 24, 2006: 31-12-6)... Nashville is 23-0-4 when leading after two periods... Steve Sullivan's three assists Tuesday extended his streak of multi-point games to four. He has posted 9 points (2g-7a) during the streak. His performance vs. Vancouver was his fourth three-point game of the season... Tomas Vokoun's record is now 32-14-7. He posted his third shutout of the season and the 15th of his career. He is 4-0-2 since returning from the Olympic Games and continues to rank among league leaders in wins... Dan Hamhuis' goal was his third of the season and the first short-handed goal of his career. The tally was also his first game-winning goal of the season. He finished the game with a game-high +3 rating as well... Nashville now has 11 short-handed goals on the season and three in the last five games... Scott Hartnell ended a seven-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist... Scottie Upshall has at least one point in each of the last three games he's player for Nashville (2g, 1a over the span). His team-leading plus/minus rating was augmented by a game-high +3, to give him +12 on the season... Brendan Witt posted his first point as a Predator. The assist, which came on Jordin Tootoo's goal, was Witt's 11th of the season... Defensemen Witt and Shea Weber each registered a team-high three hits... Ryan Suter blocked a game-high five shots... The Predators are now 24-6-1 at home, and their 24 wins are two better than their previous franchise record of 22 set in 2003-04... Nashville's penalty killers went a perfect eight-for-eight Tuesday and have neutralized 22 of 23 power plays in the last three games against Vancouver... With five goals vs. the Canucks, the Predators' goal total rises to 201 this season. The team record is 216, set in 2003-04... Vern Fiddler and Scott Nichol were scratches for Nashville.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:30)
Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz's post-game press conference (9:13)
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