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Nashville Predators level playoff series with 4-1 victory over Canucks

VANCOUVER — Andrew Brunette liked the way his Nashville Predators put their bodies on the line Tuesday.
Nashville Predators' Colton Sissons, back centre, celebrates his goal as Vancouver Canucks' Elias Pettersson (40) collides with goalie Casey DeSmith (29) while Nils Hoglander (21) looks on during the second period in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — Andrew Brunette liked the way his Nashville Predators put their bodies on the line Tuesday. 

Down a game in their first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville blocked 31 shots and "committed to the pain" in Game 2, the coach said.

The commitment paid off — the Predators downed the Canucks 4-1 and levelled the series at 1-1.

"I think that's maybe something we learned from Game 1 a little bit," Brunette said. "Maybe we weren't as committed to the pain and tonight (we were), with the blocked shots and the things that we did sacrificing our body. So we learned and we're still growing. We're not where we want to be, but we're getting better and today was a good step.”

Vancouver registered seven blocked shots on the night. 

Nikita Zadorov said he and his Canucks teammates may be able to take something from the way their opponents played. 

"They’re super desperate, they're laying out for every puck, they're trying to block with their faces. So that's what maybe we can learn from them in that particular thing," said the bruising defenceman. 

"It’s hard to win. I mean, it's playoff hockey. It’s a long series. There’s no panic in the room.”

Filip Forsberg and Anthony Beauvillier — a former Canuck — each had a goal and an assist for the Preds, while Colton Sissons and Kiefer Sherwood also scored, and Juuse Saros stopped 17 shots. 

Zadorov replied for a Vancouver side that was playing without all-star goalie Thatcher Demko. 

The 28-year-old netminder was ruled out with an undisclosed injury earlier on Tuesday and is "week-to-week," Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said post-game. 

Casey DeSmith took over in goal and stopped 12 of 15 shots. 

“Obviously bummed for Demmer but excited to play," DeSmith said of getting the start. "Playoffs, it’s a different animal and it’s fun to be out there.”

The enthusiastic crowd at Rogers Arena erupted with chants of "Let's go Case-y!" moments after the puck dropped. 

They were quickly quieted. 

Forsberg sent a long shot flying from inside the blue line and Beauvillier, stationed above the hash marks, deflected it in past an out-of-position DeSmith to put the Predators up 1-0 just 1:14 into the game. 

Beauvillier started the season in Vancouver before the Canucks dealt him to the Blackhawks to shed salary in November. Chicago then sent the left-winger to Nashville in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick ahead of the NHL trade deadline in March. 

"I was fortunate enough to be in on three great organizations this year, starting here and then bounced to Chicago," Beauvillier said. "And that's what you live for, that's why you play hockey. You want to compete for the Stanley Cup and play meaningful hockey."

The Canucks saw three power plays across the first period Tuesday but struggled to get shots on net. 

Elias Pettersson came painfully close to levelling the score on a man advantage in the dying seconds of the opening frame. 

Saros slid over to stop Quinn Hughes as he powered toward the net, but the defenceman sliced a pass to Pettersson and the Swedish centre blasted a shot at the empty net, only to see the puck glance off the outside of the post. Pettersson dropped to his knees in apparent disappointment.

Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play Tuesday.

“We had some chances, some looks on the (power play), some empty nets we didn’t capitalize on," Tocchet said. "Maybe we got a little frustrated. But we threw a lot of rubber around that area. We’ve got to keep doing that. I think the game plan is there, we’ve just got to start executing.”

The Preds took a two-goal lead midway through the second when Forsberg collected a pass from Nyquist, stickhandled his way toward the Canucks' net and fired a shot past DeSmith to make it 2-0 at the 7:29 mark. 

Ninety-five seconds later, DeSmith stopped a shot from Beauvillier but couldn't control the rebound. The puck popped out to Sissons, who batted it in past the netminder.

Zadorov cut the deficit to 3-1 with less than five minutes to go in the second. His shot from above the faceoff circle sailed in over Saros' right shoulder. 

The Canucks ended the period with yet another close call. 

With 27 seconds to go, J.T. Miller unleashed a blast from near the boards and, while Saros got a piece of the shot, it bounced out and ricocheted off the post. 

“We’ve just got to find a way to keep going to the net," Miller said. "It's not rocket science here. Go to the net, we’ve got to get it past that layer. Once it gets by that layer, it seems like we’ve got looks. We’ve just got to finish on them.”

Vancouver pulled DeSmith in favour of an extra attacker with just over two minutes left.

Sherwood beat Hughes to a loose puck along the boards and put a shot into the empty net 18:07 into the third period.


In addition to Demko, the Canucks were missing a key piece on defence with Tyler Myers out of the lineup. Tocchet said the big blue liner was under the weather with the flu. Noah Juulsen took his spot in the lineup Tuesday. 


The series shifts to Nashville for Game 3 on Friday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2024. 

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press