Stops by Pekka Rinne off of Kevin Bieksa, Maxim Lapierre and Henrik Sedin in overtime quickened the series’ pace to a crawl and Matt Halischuk delivered for the Predators, who skate back to the Music City tied 1-1 with the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Halischuk, probably best known in the hockey world for his golden goal at the 2008 World Juniors, declared in hockey cliché-speak after the game that his Game 2 overtime goal was “one of the biggest of his career.”
It was an innocuous sudden play off of an offside. Shea Weber controlled the puck off the draw and moved it quickly to Ryan Suter, who overskated it and knocked it forward. From there, Canuck defenseman overcommit to the play and was caught and Nashville had a 3-on-2 rush. Nick Spaling had control and moved it to the far man Halischuk, who went, in hockey cliché-speak “top provolone” on Roberto Luongo, ending the OT snoozer and goaltending duel.
OT would never have been reached without a groaner of a goal passing by Roberto Luongo with a minute to go in regulation. After making 35 saves up to that point, Ryan Suter from the corner deflected one in off of Luongo’s skate, spoiling Luongo’s 55-save streak and preventing him from picking up his second shutout of the series.
If the play of Luongo and Rinne in the first two games is at all indicative that the two have turned the corner from their shaky first rounds, (Rinne had an uncharacteristic .876 save percentage while Luongo was at .903 and was pulled twice) we are in for a series goaltending battle on par with what we saw out of Carey Price and Tim Thomas in Round One in the Boston/Montreal series.
The two are helped by the fact that the Canucks appear willing to play down to Nashville coach’s Barry Trotz’s style. Through 145 minutes of play, the two teams have combined for just four goals. The real indicative statistic is that the teams have played at a rate of 105 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which is well below the industry standard of 115-120.
As we progress through the series, Vancouver is going to need Henrik and Daniel Sedin to produce offensively, though the two have combined for 19 shots in the first two games so it’s only a matter of time before some of them start to go in. With the play of Rinne so far through the series, who has looked unshakeable (his only goals allowed were an unlucky bounce off of Shea Weber’s skate onto Alex Burrows’ stick and a shot by Christopher Higgins on a 3-on-1 that narrowly avoided his desperation save) the Canucks had better hope he breaks soon.
For Nashville, if they continue to set the pace of play, especially as the series shifts to their home ice for Games 3 and 4, it will definitely frustrate the Canucks and force them to make mistakes as Rome did on the 2OT goal Saturday night.
Game 3 will be held Tuesday.