Canucks can Predators 1-0 in series opener

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Roberto Luongo produced 20 saves to back-stop the Vancouver Canucks to a 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators in the first game of their Western Conference semi-final series Thursday.

Chris Higgins scored what proved to be the game winner near the mid-point of the second period, beating Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne by slamming a wrist shot into the top corner.

"I think we had a lot more chances than a one-goal performance," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told reporters.

"I'm really pleased at how we came out. We played some real emotional hockey lately, and I thought we came out with a lot of jump.

"We were assertive on the puck. We were assertive at getting pucks at their net. We just met a goaltender who was real sharp."

The Canucks dominated the Predators through first two periods, outshooting Nashville 26-11, but Rinne's spectacular play allowed the visitors to stay within reach.

Nashville pushed back in the third period outshooting Vancouver 9-4 pressing for the equalizer.

"We win and lose as a group of 20 every night, and we had way too many passengers.

"Especially at this high level of competition in the second round, you can't play the way we did.

"We had a couple of games in the playoffs where we were on the other side and won all the 50-50 pucks. Tonight we didn't win any of those, especially up front."

Luongo stopped Mike Fisher on a short-handed breakaway early in the period and Shea Weber missed a great opportunity on a late power play sending a shot high over the net.

"He (Fisher) was coming down, but two guys were on his back," Luongo said. "I just stepped up on him at the last second and pushed out toward his stick, tried to take away as much net as possible."

(Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario. Editing by Alastair Himmer)