Canucks, Roberto Luongo shut out Predators 1-0 in tight-checking contest
Unlikely scorer Dale Weise pots the only goal Vancouver would need as club loses Kevin Bieksa to injury
Nick Spaling of the Nashville Predators barely misses the puck as it slides in front of goalie Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks during their National Hockey League game in Nashville on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. The Canucks shut out the Predators 1-0.
Photograph by: Frederick Breedon, NHLI via Getty Images
NASHVILLE — Trust me, Friday nights in Nashville are never dull.
Unless you happened to be inside Bridgestone Arena, where the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators attempted to check one another into the ice.
Thankfully, Dale Weise livened things up, albeit briefly, as he scored the game’s only goal as the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 to earn their second win in as many nights on the road.
It wasn’t pretty — in fact it was downright ugly for much of the night — but the Canucks were happy to take the two points and run. What they weren’t happy about was an injury to defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who left the game early in the second period with what coach Alain Vigneault described as a groin injury he did not think was serious.
The game seemed destined for a shootout — and goodness knows how long that would have lasted considering how well Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne are playing these days.
But Weise took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and scored his first of the season at 9:14 of the third period. Mercifully, this one was over after 60 minutes.
There was lots of hooting and hollering by his teammates as Weise walked to the centre of the Vancouver dressing room for media interviews.
“I have been frustrated with myself,” Weise said. “I haven’t contributed offensively the way I would like. But I think our line has been playing well and we have been getting chances. It’s really good to get that one.”
Luongo, again, was rock solid in goal. After watching Cory Schneider play earlier this week in Chicago and Dallas, Luongo calmly turned aside all 23 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season.
More than half of those shots came in the first period, when the rest of the Canucks were no-shows. It may have been Vancouver’s worst period of the season.
The Canucks were outshot 13-3 in the opening 20 minutes and all three of those shots came from well out by defencemen. Luongo, meanwhile had to make a number of big saves.
“We played last night, travelled, got in late, so they came out strong,” Luongo said. “But we were able to weather the storm and the last two periods I thought we played basically the type of hockey you want to play, especially against these guys. It took a big goal from our fourth line, but we got the job done.”
The Canucks got a talking to from Vigneault after that ugly first period.
“There was a little talk, yeah,” said defenceman Keith Ballard. “There were a couple of four-letter words that were said to us, yes, but we understood. We knew we didn’t have our A game.”
Or their B or C game, for that matter.
But the Canucks persevered and were the better team the final two periods when they outshot the Preds 21-10.
“In the first period we were looking to find a little bit of energy and I think we built off that really solid performance from Louie in the first period,” Vigneault said.
“He permitted us to find our legs, find our execution, find our energy and we were much better in the second and the third and were able to play a high-percentage game against a team doesn’t give you much. We had some quality chances, their goaltender made some big saves and we finally got one past him and we were able to get it done.”
Weise’s goal came after linemate Max Lapierre took a pass from Dan Hamhuis and fired a shot from the edge of the right circle. The puck appeared to bounce off the skate of Predators’ defenceman Scott Hannan and directly to Weise, who was stationed at the left edge of the crease.
“You know a couple of the guys were joking yesterday how it was funny how certain guys in the league always get these kind of back-door tap-ins and I said ‘you know, I’d just love to get one,’” Weise said. “Max makes a heck of a play there and it’s right on my tape and I can’t miss.”
Weise was beginning to think he was snake-bitten. He’s had some nice chances to score this season, but hadn’t been able to convert them.
“How many nights have I lost sleep over chances where I should have scored, that would be a better question,” Weise said. “But it feels really good to break the ice and get that one. As big a goal as it was, it feels really good.”
It seemed almost fitting that Vancouver’s fourth line got the winner in a tight-checking game like this one.
“Especially for a guy like Dale,” said Lapierre. “He goes to war for us every night and he fights, he hits, he blocks shots, guys like that deserve a big goal like that once in a while.”
“Dale is an energy player, a banger, a skater, he is playing on our penalty-kill right now and has been a physical presence,” Vigneault said. “He has had a couple of good bouts this year and it’s good to see him finally get a goal and it happened to be the game-winner.”
The win improved Vancouver’s record to 10-3-4, while the Predators dropped to 8-5-5.
ICE CHIPS: The Predators meet the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday night. The Canucks have a day off on Saturday and close out their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon in the Motor City ... With Jannik Hansen returning after serving his one-game suspension, Aaron Volpatti was a healthy scratch along with defencemen Andrew Alberts and Cam Barker.
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