Published May 09, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vancouver Canucks are looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
The Canucks defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in Game 6 on Monday night and have several days before they'll face either the Detroit Red Wings or the San Jose Sharks in their first Western Conference finals appearance since 1994.
It's a nice change from the less than 48-hour turnaround between their overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the first round and their 1-0 victory in the opening conference semifinal game against Nashville.
"A couple of days in between the series is going to be a good thing for us as far as getting our energy level really high," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "We are going to meet a real strong opponent, so a few days off won't hurt."
The Canucks made themselves comfortable on Nashville's ice, winning all three games there in the series while going 1-2 at home.
Mason Raymond gave Vancouver the lead against Nashville 7:45 into the game, and Daniel Sedin made it 2-0 just 1:43 later. Roberto Luongo did the rest by making 23 saves for the Canucks, who were outshot 24-19. The Canucks recorded only nine total shots in the first two periods.
David Legwand's goal 3:31 into the second period cut Vancouver's lead to 2-1. The goal — Legwand's sixth of the postseason — stood up to a video review, but the Predators couldn't avoid elimination again and force the Canucks into another Game 7.
Vancouver is 2-4 this year with the opportunity to advance on the line and 6-1 in its other playoff games. The Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead against defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago in the first round before finally eliminating the Blackhawks.
After grabbing the early lead against the Predators, the Canucks put the game away with defense. Nashville had 11 shots in the first period, but only 13 over the final 40 minutes. The Predators also failed to take advantage of four first-period penalty plays.
The Canucks got some help to get their offense rolling as Predators defenseman Ryan Suter turned over the puck to Ryan Kesler right next to the net. Kesler passed to Raymond, who backhanded a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne, who finished with 17 saves.
Sedin doubled the lead while Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo served an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving, after he was hit by Alex Edler. Sedin connected 36 seconds into the power play.
Martin Erat had one of Nashville's best looks at another goal on a breakaway after coming off the bench, but Jeff Tambellini caught up with him and knocked him down just before he was able to take a clean shot.
"We learned a lot about ourselves, in this series in particular," Kesler said. "They are a team that throws everything at you, and they never give up and they are a well-coached team that works extremely hard. They really played well."
The Predators had gotten a little taste of elimination pressure during the regular season. Nashville was 11th in the West on March 10, but moved up to the fifth seed with a 14-4-3 finish to the regular season.
The Predators, who won their first playoff series by beating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, had never won a playoff game in which they faced elimination until their 4-3 victory in Game 5 against Vancouver on Saturday night.
"They were working harder, and it's just tough that it's over now after all the hard work we put in," Nashville forward Joel Ward said. "We lost, and now it's all done and we get to move on. We really wanted to continue playing, and we were having a good time. We just wanted to keep competing."
NOTES: Canucks F Mikael Samuelsson sat out after sustaining an undisclosed lower body injury in Game 5. ... Nashville D Shea Weber had five of the Predators' 11 shots in the first period. ... Ward scored his ninth point of the series when he assisted on Legwand's goal. ... The announced attendance was a sellout crowd of 17,113. ... The Canucks reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1994 and lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7.