One goal was not enough for the Vancouver Canucks this time.
The Canucks offensive struggles finally caught up to them on Saturday evening, when the Nashville Predators rallied for a 2-1 decision in the second overtime to knot the second-round series after two games.
Poor execution was to blame in regulation time and Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne prevented the Canucks from going up 2-0 in the series in overtime.
“He was the difference,” said Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa, one of Rinne’s victims in overtime. “He was their best player, no doubt about it.
“We didn’t get enough on net [in regulation] and we didn’t get enough traffic in front of him in overtime. It’s unacceptable to have only what, 14 shots, after three periods.”
Well, actually 15. But the portion of the 18,860 fans at Rogers Arena who stayed for overtime witnessed another brilliant performance from Rinne. Among his five highlight reel saves in overtime was when he dove across the crease and got his stick on a shot from Bieksa late in the first extra period.
“He just dove across and made a great save,” Bieksa said. “I didn’t take it for granted. I had most of the net to shoot at. I tip my hat to him.”
Like his counterpart in the Canucks' goal, Roberto Luongo, Rinne is a Vezina Trophy candidate for his regular season play. But in the first round of the playoffs he struggled against the Anaheim Ducks. He was pulled from a game and had only an .876 save percentage.
Nevertheless, the 28-year-old Finn has rediscovered his form. With his 6-foot-5, 207-pound frame, he has stopped 61 of 63 shots in the two games against Vancouver. What’s been the difference in this series?
“Nothing really,” he said. “Just two different series. It’s hard to say. I just go out there and try my best.”
And how did Rinne describe his stop on Bieksa?
“I was so fortunate,” he said. “Its one of those things where you have no choice.”
Even though the Canucks had poor execution in regulation time and the Predators were much better on the forecheck to outshoot them 36-15 through three periods, Vancouver had a 1-0 lead thanks to a second-period goal from Alex Burrows off a neutral zone turnover from Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn.
But the Predators hung in there and tied the game on a fluky goal from defenceman Ryan Suter, whose pass from behind the goal line to teammate Joel Ward bounded in off Luongo, who saw a shutout string of 126 minutes and 11 seconds snapped.
Halischuk makes good
The Canucks came to play in overtime. They wound up outshooting Nashville 18-10 in extra time, but Nashville’s 22-year-old Matt Halischuk made good on the final shot of the game for his second career Stanley Cup playoff goal in eight games.
You may remember Halischuk’s name. He scored the overtime winner for Canada at the 2008 world junior championship gold-medal final. But he refused to choose which heroic moment was better.
“It’s hard to compare,” he said. “It’s definitely right up there. But they are different.”
The Canucks now have gone 9 2/3 games if you add all the overtime minutes with only 18 goals and only seven in the last five outings. There will be plenty of talk about Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler having yet to score in this playoffs, but somehow the Presidents’ Trophy winners will need to regain the finish they exhibited in the regular season when they led the league in offence.