VANCOUVER, BC (AP) - Thursday night was like a rock through the windshield for the Vancouver Canucks.
They dropped a their sixth game in seven tries on home-ice this season losing 3-0 to a Nashville team that hadn’t won a road game this season, and lost a pair of key defenders to serious injury as both Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa were sent to the hospital before the final horn.
David Legwand and Martin Erat scored on Nashville's first two shots of the game and Dan Ellis made 29 saves as the Predators won their fifth game of the year. J.P. Dumont added two assists despite breaking the tip of his left ring finger during Nashville's 5-1 loss in Calgary two nights earlier - the Predators' fifth straight road loss.
Roberto Luongo finished with just 12 saves for the Canucks, who only have just one in their last five overall.
“You’ve just got to battle through these things,” said Luongo, who has just four wins to his name. “When things aren’t going your way, you just have to work harder during practice and make sure it carries over going into the games. Right now we’re facing some adversity, but we got to regroup as a team and come back the next game.”
Nashville came into the game with only three goals on the road all season, but matched that total despite just 15 shots when Jason Arnott scored on a power play with 8.6 seconds left in the game.
“Our guys were ready to play,” said Alain Vigneault. “They came out really hard and we had a number of quality chances. Their goaltender - give him credit - he made some good saves and it’s a tough league when you get behind.”
“They obviously got the start they wanted, I thought we were making a lot of great effort plays, but when you get behind 2-0, it’s a hard league to get back from.”
Legwand opened the scoring on a power play 6:16 in, circling at the top of the faceoff circle to Luongo's left before firing a wrist shot through the goalie's legs. It was the Predators' first lead on the road this season, and Erat doubled it on a breakaway two minutes later, sliding a backhand deke through Luongo's legs. The 2-0 first-period deficit spoiled what should have been an encouraging start as the Canucks hemmed the Preds in their own end for most of the opening ten minutes and finished the first with a13-3 edge in shots.
“We pushed hard and worked hard,” said Trevor Linden, who split time on the top line with the Twins. “Our execution wasn’t really where is should be. I think we were just struggling a little offensively tonight. The effort was there - obviously got down early in the game and couldn’t get back into it - but I think at times like this you kind of look at what your doing good.”
The Canucks led 22-5 on the shot clock through 40 minutes, but couldn’t bet Ellis, who was making his third start in four games while No.1 Chris Mason tries to overcome a seven-game losing streak. Ellis made good saves off Markus Naslund on a power play in the first, and on Mattias Ohlund's shot from the high slot early in the third. He preserved the shutout with a point-blank power-play stop on Brendan Morrison with 2:30 left in the game and managed to thwart a Vancouver power play on five opportunities.
Ellis, a second-round draft pick by Dallas in 2001 who spent almost all his first four seasons in the minors, now has two shutouts in three starts with Nashville, and wins in all four career NHL starts, including one with the Stars in 2003-04.
Over 21 minutes of ice time, hits, blocked shots, takeaways... he was everywhere.
A goal and an assist. Opened the night's scoring at just over 6 minutes into the game.
Saved 29 shots and kept the Canucks off the scoreboard for a shutout.
“I think we want to do well in front of our home fans,” said Markus Naslund, who finished with four shots on goal. “Maybe we’re pushing a little too much. It’s not like we didn’t have chances tonight. I think we outplayed the team.”
“We’re not finding ways to win now and that’s what happens when you don’t have the confidence. Like I said, we’re in a tough state right now, but we’ll find a way and do it for each other.”
Worse than the loss, the Canucks won’t likely have either Bieksa or Salo back in the line-up any time soon. Both left the blood on the ice after being carted to the bench. Bieksa got tangled up with Vern Fiddler and suffered a serious gash on the back of his right leg. Salo left a pool of blood behind with four minutes left in the third after Edler snapped a high puck out of the zone and caught him just below the eye.
“Kevin has gone to the hospital here,” said Vigneault, immediately following the game. “He took what I’m assuming was a skate off his calf. It was a pretty deep cut there with the muscle, so they couldn’t fix him up here.”
“Sami I think, is on his way right now to the hospital. The puck hit him in the orbital bone and in the nose. So, that’s easy to say both those guys are going to be out for a while.”
The Canucks are now without three of their top six defenceman as Lukas Krajicek will be out four weeks because of a fracture in his foot that was detected by an MRI only after he slipped on a sidewalk, aggravating an injury originally suffered blocking a shot on Oct. 13.
“Obviously we’re going to need at least one defenceman,” said Vigneault. “We’re facing major adversity right now. I think the only way to [conquer] that adversity is by sticking together. We’re going to call up players that we’re hoping that are going to be able to help out… we’re going to play our way through this – that’s all we can do right now.”
On the upside, the Canucks took the battle of the face-offs winning 64 percent of the draws and managed to out shoot their opponent 29-15. The Canucks, who sit tied with Edmonton for last place in the Northwest, will get a chance to climb the standings as they face divisional opponent in their next eight games.
They Said It:
“Well, you know, we’re trying to get something going there. You got to try different things.” – Vigneault on splitting up the twins in the third period of Thursday’s 3-0 loss.
“I’m not sure how serious it is, but every time you lose players - especially guys like that - it’s going to hurt you. Hopefully we have enough guys, and [maybe] it gives a guy like Alex [Edler] time to play more.” – Ohlund on injuries to Salo, Bieksa, and Krajicek.“It’s just a bad goal, I mean, he shot right through my legs and I was slow to react. It’s probably one of my first bad goals of the season that I can remember. Unfortunately it wasn’t a good timing for it and it kind of hurt us.” – Luongo on Legwand’s first-period power-play goal that made it 1-0.