The Vancouver Canucks are going home happy.
The Canucks headed back to the Pacific Northwest with three victories on a four-game road trip after a pair of third-period goals by Ryan Kesler lifted them to a 3-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
"The second half of the game, we started playing our game," coach John Tortorella said. "Our power play came through again. We won three out of four, and that's traction."
Combined with a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, the Canucks have back-to-back victories for the first time since winning four in a row from Oct. 22-28.
"We played well enough to win back-to-back games the last couple weeks, but it didn't happen," captain Henrik Sedin said. "We feel better about ourselves now"
Kesler broke a 1-1 tie after the Canucks (15-10-5) pressured the Predators in their own zone and Jason Garrison was able to step into a slap shot from the left point that was stopped by goaltender Marek Mazanec. The rebound caromed into a tangle of bodies in front of the net, and Kesler found the loose puck and banked a shot off Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis and into the net at 7:37.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz wasn't happy watching his team get outworked on the go-ahead goal.
"On that second goal, we lost two battles; our centers lost two battles down low," Trotz said. "In the corner and in front, we lost two battles and it wound up in our net."
Kesler added a power-play goal with 5:45 remaining, backhanding a loose puck into the net after Garrison's right-point shot was partially blocked but slid toward the front of the net.
"It's a battle. It's an all-out war out there. You've got to fight for time and space," Kesler said. "They're going to be dirty goals. That's what we got today."
Kesler leads the Canucks with 14 goals and has back-to-back two-goal games. He scored twice Sunday in a 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. Eleven of his goals have come in the Canucks' 17 road games.
"I have four goals in two games, but it's not about that," he said. "It's our team and how we compete. We've been bringing it."
The Canucks begin a five-game homestand against the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday night.
Vancouver's Brad Richardson and Nashville's Colin Wilson scored 30 seconds apart in the second period.
Roberto Luongo, playing for the first time since he was hooked in the second period of a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, stopped 30 shots in the Canucks' fourth consecutive victory against Nashville. Mazanec, named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November earlier in the day, made 30 saves for the Predators.
"We both played patient games," Predators center Paul Gaustad said. "There were just a couple of opportunities, and they buried a couple more than us."
Nashville (13-12-3) has lost three in a row, all at home.
"Five-on-five, the first 30 minutes, I thought we were the better team," Trotz said. "Vancouver didn't have much going on, other than a power play. We had a lot of chances we didn't bury.
Neither team generated much offense in a scoreless, penalty-free first period that saw the best scoring chances crammed into the final few minutes.
Nashville's Nick Spaling stole the puck in the left corner and fed a wide-open Craig Smith in front, but Luongo stopped him from close in with 2:19 left, then managed to keep the rebound out of the net despite Smith batting away at the loose puck.
On the next shift, Kesler swatted a loose puck out of midair and off the crossbar. With 50 seconds left, Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis whipped a backhander from the slot that beat Mazanec but rang off the right post.
The Canucks outshot the Predators 18-14 in a wild second period in which two goals were scored in a half-minute span.
Richardson gave the Canucks the lead at 15:24. He was standing to the left of Mazanec when he picked up a rebound and banked it into the net off the goaltender for his sixth goal of the season.
Vancouver could not enjoy the lead for very long. Luongo stopped Roman Josi's slapper from just inside the blue line, but the puck came to Patric Hornqvist in the slot. Instead of shooting, Hornqvist drew Luongo and the defense to him, then slid the puck to his right, where Wilson was all alone and easily dunked his fifth of the season into the half-empty net.
"When they scored right away," Kesler said, "we found a way to come back and win the game, which is important."
Material from team media was used in this report
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