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Predators 4, Canucks 2: No sneak attack to salvage something from trip finale

Here’s what we learned as the Canucks had 32 shots, but went 0-for-2 on the power play and go into their break with a 20-20-6 record:

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Sneak. Survive.

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Those were elements Bruce Boudreau hoped would apply to the finale of a four-game road trip Tuesday in Nashville.

The Canucks coach knew the second half of back-to-back games against the pesky Predators, who were looking to avenge a 3-1 home-ice loss to Vancouver on Jan. 18, would mean getting to Juuse Saros and getting to a point where they could find their legs.

“If we can survive the first period and come out tied or ahead, I think we have a really good chance,” Boudreau said before puck drop. “If we can sneak one out we’ll be in pretty good position for the (All-Star Game) break.

“I’ve learned these guys want to win. I don’t know how good they can be, but I know we’re resilient.”


NEXT GAME

Tuesday

Vancouver Canucks vs. Arizona Coyotes

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7 p.m.,  Rogers Arena, TV:  Sportsnet Pacific,  Radio:   Sportsnet 650


The Canucks responded by opening scoring to mark the sixth time in the last seven outings they’ve set the early tempo. However, the Predators needed just 68 seconds to strike twice before the Canucks evened the count before the first period expired.

It was mission accomplished in the wild opening frame, but the pace of play that turned the test into a track meet would ensure a 3-2 Predators’ advantage after 40 minutes wouldn’t be the end of it.

Big Tanner Jeannot, the Calder Trophy candidate you don’t hear much about, collected his 14th goal early in the third period by pouncing on a rebound to give the Predators a two-goal cushion en route to a 4-2 victory.

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Filip Forsberg had a pair of goals and Ryan Johansen also replied for the Predators, while Matthew Highmore and Oliver-Ekman Larsson scored for the Canucks.

“As far as want and will and wanting to try, I can’t ask for a lot more than they had,” Boudreau said post game. “That was four games in six nights with a lot of travel and we played a pretty good team that was rested. I’m giving them (players) the benefit of the doubt. They were pretty fatigued but they never quit.

“You never feel good when you lose and when they scored that fourth goal, you could see we didn’t have that push-back energy. If we could have tied it 3-3, I think adrenalin would have kept us going.”

Here’s what we learned as the Canucks had 32 shots, but went 0-for-2 on the power play and go into their break with a 20-20-6 record:

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Vancouver Canucks centre Matthew Highmore (15) scores a goal against Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Vancouver Canucks centre Matthew Highmore (15) scores a goal against Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by AP Photo/Mark Zaleski /AP

SHOOTER-TUTOR SHOWDOWN

Lots of speed, lots of room through the neutral zone and a lot of challenges for a pair of All-Star Game goalies.  

For Thatcher Demko and Saros, it wasn’t a showdown. More like an episode of survivor with screens, scrambles, rebounds, posts, tips and laser shots ruining their night.

It started early with a brutal neutral-zone turnover that sprung Highmore for the opening goal. He took a backhand feed from Juho Lammikko and put an effort through Saros.  

“It was a really good back check by Motter (Tyler Motte) and Lammer to create the turnover and I was just able to finish,” said Highmore. “A 2-1-1 record is a pretty good road trip, but it’s a little bittersweet. We wanted that one tonight but stuff happens. It’s how we respond.

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“We’re going to get a good break and get right back at it. We’ve played a lot of road games (13 of the last 16) and that’s the nature of the beast. Every time you come into Nashville, you know they’re a big and strong team. We knew what to expect and they certainly came as advertised and I thought we dealt with it pretty good.

“We had our looks to get back in the game.”

Instead of building on the lead with a power play, the Predators struck at its conclusion when Johansen sped away with Brock Boeser in pursuit and found the high short side. Less than a minute later, it was Forsberg with a deft power play deflection off the toe of his stick over Demko’s shoulder.

Ekman-Larsson then made it 2-2 with a spin-o-rama shot from the point and J.T. Miller providing the perfect screen. However, he was more concerned about the power play that is now in an 0-for-8 funk.

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“We were alright in the first period and had chances in the second, but couldn’t close it out,” he said. “Special teams weren’t very good and that’s why we lost the game. It (power play) goes up and down in a season and we have to stay positive to figure it out.

“We haven’t been able to create enough. We’re trying to keep it a little bit too cute out there instead of taking the puck to the net.”

As for his goal, Ekman-Larsson knew that Miller was in the slot to set a screen or get a tip or rebound.

“Miller had a good screen and I was actually trying to get it to him, but the puck rolled on my stick,” he said. “But it was nice to score.”

After Matt Duchene and Elias Pettersson struck iron to open the second period, it was Forsberg making it five goals in his last four games with a power play, one-timer high to the stick side off a cross-ice feed.

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With the Canucks trailing 4-2 in the third period, Demko did make a tough blocker save off Eeli Tolvanen to keep his club within striking range.


Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) reaches for the puck in front of Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) reaches for the puck in front of Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by AP Photo/Mark Zaleski /AP

HOGLANDER LOOKS, LISTENS

On Monday, Boudreau said Russian rookie Vasily Podkolzin had done nothing wrong to be scratched for the third time in his young career.

He needed to watch a game from the sidelines to see what he could do better because he was wasting energy and positioning by trying to do too much.

Podklozin had a second-period scoring chance Tuesday on a 2-on-1 with Jason Dickinson and his ability to play in an uptempo game was clearly evident in measured minutes.

On Tuesday, Nils Hoglander sat for the first time in his NHL career after logging 101 games.

The winger is fast, creative and snake bit with numerous scoring chances of late. He was fifth in shots among club forwards (106) in 45 games, but just eight goals speaks to a 7.5 shooting percentage and lack of finish.

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Hoglander’s play without the puck can also be unnerving. He’s second among club forwards in giveaways but tied for second in take-aways.

“I wanted them both to miss a game and that was the theme behind it,” said Boudreau. “If you’re going to insert (Tanner) Pearson and (Jason) Dickinson) and (Alex) Chiasson who were playing well, I thought veterans would be better suited for this game.

“I thought Pods responded well and tried really hard. He was emotionally involved with the other team — which I haven’t seen in a while — and had a couple of good chances to score. In a couple of years he’s going to be a really good pro. Right now, he’s in a learning process.”


Nashville Predators centre Matt Duchene (95) chases the puck as he is defended by Vancouver Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
Nashville Predators centre Matt Duchene (95) chases the puck as he is defended by Vancouver Canucks defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by AP Photo/Mark Zaleski /AP

TRADES, WHAT TRADES?

Boudreau is a players’ coach.

He’s positive by nature and is the pumper of tires to keep his club engaged.  

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And with a 12-5-4 record since he took over the bench, it’s no surprise that he has his players’ backs as the trade rumour mill continues to grind out speculation of the future of J.T. Miller, Conor Garland, Tyler Motte, Tanner Pearson and Luke Schenn in advance of the March 21 trade deadline.

Miller is being chased by a number of Stanley Cup contenders — the New York Rangers are making the most noise to bring him back into the fold — but how do you part with your best player? The return would have to be considerable.  

“The club does what it has to do — my job is to win games,” said Boudreau. “We’ve had some of our best players out (COVID-19) and the best thing I can do is make it really difficult for upper management by winning consistently.  

“Nobody has talked to me about any trade possibilities. I think that’s outside noise coming in to us. They (trades) happen during the course of the year and every team worries and a lot of players worry about it.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/benkuzma

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