Nashville Predators defenceman Shea Weber (6) and goalie Pekka Rinne (35), of Finland, stop a shot as Vancouver Canucks right wing Zack Kassian (9) closes in during the first period of an NHL game on Monday, April 15, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.
Photograph by: Mark Humphrey, AP
NASHVILLE – It looked like a camper fighting a grizzly bear and the camper won.
On the shift that decided Monday's game, nobody scored. But the Vancouver Canucks finally moved the game to the Nashville Predators' end late in the second period, when Daniel and Henrik Sedin buzzed the net and linemate Alex Burrows battled huge defenceman Hal Gill.
The bear was penalized for mauling the camper, and the Canucks parlayed the ensuing power play into the winning goal in a 5-2 victory.
“I could have had (a penalty) there, too,” Burrows said. “I gave him a few good whacks behind the legs and it could have gone either way. But once the whistle blew, he gave me that extra shot. The ref said: 'You gave it to him the entire shift and that's why I've got to call the last one.' It's part of the game.”
It was a key part of the game. Gill was furious that he was assessed the only penalty after an exchange that circled the Nashville net and at one point had Burrows slash the Predator across the back of the leg when he threatened to feed on one of the Sedins, who had fallen at Gill's feet.
But Gill's cuff after the whistle was obvious, even to referee Dan O'Halloran.
“To be honest with you, I just kind of pushed him,” Gill said. “He was in front of the net, the puck went there and I pushed him down. I’m not too happy with that call. I don’t mind him slashing me and hacking me and spearing me; I can handle that as long as I’m allowed to push back and to make a one-sided call like that, I wasn’t too happy.”
The shift, the penalty and the power-play goal by Jason Garrison that followed changed the game.
COACHES COACH: Alain Vigneault reserves the right to make changes, even if the Canuck coach abandoned plans to play Ryan Kesler on right wing and instead deployed the key centre Monday between Derek Roy and Jannik Hansen on a remade second line.
On Sunday, Roy practised at centre between Alex Burrows and Kesler, who hasn't played on the wing in four years. For Monday's game, Burrows was reunited with first-liners Henrik and Daniel Sedin against the Nashville Predators.
“We're fighting first of all to get in (the playoffs),” Vigneault said before the game when asked about experimenting. “That's our goal right now – to get that check mark.
“There is, every game, a player who plays better than what you expected, a player who's not giving you what you expected. You've got some adjustments to make and you make them in the best interests of the team.”
ONE MORE TIME: With the Canucks in the stretch run of their schedule and starter Cory Schneider in superb form, it's possible Roberto Luongo's start in goal against the Predators was his last of the season. If so, Luongo left the crease happy.
He was outstanding in the win, making 36 saves and helping keep his team afloat in the second period.
“What's that saying? You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone,” Luongo, who averaged 64 games per season the last six years as a Canuck, said. “It's exciting to play. Whatever the situation, you want to contribute. But obviously being on the ice is much different than being on the bench.
“I haven't looked at the schedule at all to be honest with you. I stopped guessing a long time ago (about when I might play), so you just have to go with it. I'm not even sure the coaching staff knows how they want to play it out. But for me, I'm just trying to be ready for every game.”
NUMBERS: The Canuck power play was 2-for-4, converting more than once in a game for the first time since Feb. 17 against the St. Louis Blues, whom they play tonight. . . Former Predator Dan Hamhuis led the Canucks with 22:52 of ice time, finished plus-two, had an assist and two hits. . . Max Lapierre was 8-2 on faceoffs.
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