Luongo, Canucks blank Predators for Game 1 win

Chris Higgins' second-period goal was enough offence for Roberto Luongo as the Vancouver Canucks blanked the Nashville Predators 1-0 in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal on Thursday.
Vancouver forward Christopher Higgins, right, celebrates with Dan Hamhuis after he scored in the second period on Thursday. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)


  • Luongo earns 3rd career playoff SO
  • Rinne makes 29 saves
  • Higgins scores GWG

Goals may be scarce in the second round for the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators, if first impressions mean anything in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Canucks huffed and puffed around the Predators' brick wall otherwise known as Pekka Rinne as only Vancouver forward Chris Higgins beat the Nashville goalie for a 1-0 win in the second-round series opener on Thursday.

Rinne even got a piece of Higgins's shot with his pad midway through the second period and the players on the ice were uncertain that the puck entered the net, so they kept playing. But a quick video review confirmed that Higgins had his second game winner of the spring after he also opened the previous series against the Chicago Blackhawks by scoring the only goal the Canucks needed in a 2-0 win.

"I thought it went in off the back bar, but when everyone continued playing I had a bad feeling in my stomach," the 27-year-old Higgins said. "[Rinne] played phenomenal. He made a lot of hard saves look easy."

And he also didn’t give up many second chances.

But wasn’t this expected when two Vezina Trophy candidates clash? Well, not if the first round was any indication. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who earned his third career playoff shutout with 20 saves, was pulled twice and was even replaced as the starter for Game 6 against those dastardly Blackhawks, a team that has given him fits in the post-season. But Luongo did rebound with a solid effort in the dramatic series finale.

Meanwhile, Rinne checked in with an unimpressive .876 save percentage in his team’s six-game series against the Anaheim Ducks. The fabulous Finn was also yanked from Game 4 against the Ducks.

But both goalies were on their game in the series opener, which predictably lacked the wild and crazy Game 7 atmosphere at the Rogers Arena two nights earlier. The Canucks still had a sharpness to their game, but didn’t engage themselves as physically as they did in the previous series and that may have been a product of a letdown from the emotional high of finally beating the Blackhawks.

"We had a day to collect our thoughts," Higgins said. "But it was an emotional high from that Game 7."

Rinne, who stopped 29 shots, made sure the Canucks' good vibrations didn’t last long with his clever glove and quick pads. He didn’t give the Canucks many rebounds to snack on. The Canucks didn’t beat the stingy Predators goalie until their 24th shot.

"It’s about what we expected," Higgins said. "I think it will be tight all series."

At the other end of the rink, Luongo could have taken a nap at times. The shots were 24-8 when Higgins scored, but because Rinne kept his teammates in the game it made for a nervous Canucks team.

"When the shots are 20-5 you don’t want to give up a goal, that’s your mindset," Luongo said.

While Rinne stopped Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin on a breakaway, Luongo’s best save was on a shorthanded breakaway from Nashville’s Mike Fisher, 3½ minutes into the final period.

The Predators missed a golden opportunity to tie the game during a late-game power play, but defenceman Shea Weber shot high with a third of the net open.

"I think it was embarrassing for us," the heavily bearded Weber said of his team’s performance in the opener after being off since Sunday.

The game also featured a rare clipping penalty, when Canucks defenceman Keith Ballard dipped down to flip over Predators forward Jordan Tootoo in the second period.