VANCOUVER, B.C. – Ryan Suter got the Nashville Predators to overtime. Pekka Rinne gave them a chance to win. Matt Halischuk finished the job.
The result: The Predators are heading back to Nashville with a split of the first two games in their Western Conference Semifinal series.
Suter tied the game with 1:07 left in regulation, Rinne made 18 saves after regulation and Halischuk scored the winner at 14:51 of the second overtime as the Predators evened the series with a 2-1 victory on Saturday night.
Halischuk, acquired from New Jersey last summer in a deal for Jason Arnott, took a perfect feed from Nick Spaling on a 3-on-2 rush and fired a high wrister from the right of the slot past Roberto Luongo's glove, ending the longest overtime game thus far in this year's playoffs.
"They put pressure on the puck, they turned it over at the blue line, and Hally placed it right where he needed to put it on Roberto," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
The series moves to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday.
It was the 11th night in the last 12 that at least one playoff game has gone to overtime – the exception was Thursday, when Vancouver won the series-opener 1-0 in the only game of the night. In all, this was the 16th of the 54 playoff games this spring that has gone to OT.
Rinne, who faced only 15 shots through 60 minutes, was the reason that Halischuk had the chance to be the hero. He robbed Henrik Sedin 4:15 into the first overtime, then made the save of the playoffs with 2:15 left in the first extra period when he dove from left to right to deny Kevin Bieksa on a one-timer off a pass by Daniel Sedin that appeared headed for the back of the net.
"That was an unbelievable save," Trotz said.
A minute later, he got his left pad on Maxim Lapierre's shot from 10 feet after Lapierre dangled through the defense. He also denied Daniel Sedin on a rebound early in the second overtime.
"We had chances but were unable to beat a great goaltender," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
Unlike Game 1, when the Predators rarely tested Luongo, Nashville dominated much of the game, but trailed 1-0 on Burrows' shorthanded goal early in the second period until Suter finally found the back of the net to force OT.
With Rinne on the bench for an extra attacker, Suter followed his own blocked shot behind the goal line to the right of Luongo and shoveled the puck towards the net. His passout deflected off the inside of Luongo's left skate and into the net for first of the playoffs with 1:07 remaining.
"Tonight we played Predator hockey," said Trotz, who was furious with the performance of his forwards in Game 1. "We played with conviction. We played with discipline. Our work ethic was there.
"I thought in regulation, we had the majority of the better chances. We just couldn't convert."
At least not until Suter's bank shot, which ended a franchise playoff-record 119:03 scoring drought for the Predators and snapped Luongo's shutout streak of 126:11 dating back to Game 7 of the Chicago series.
Before Suter's tying goal, the Predators were on the verge of being blanked for the second straight game despite outshooting the Canucks 36-15 through 60 minutes.
Nashville had Vancouver pinned in its own end for an extended period of time near the midway mark of the third period but could not find the back of the net. Jordin Tootoo had a breakaway chance with just over eight minutes remaining after the feisty winger intercepted a Keith Ballard pass at the red line, but was denied by Luongo.
Two nights after drawing criticism from their coach for their poor showing in a 1-0 loss in Game 1, the Predators came out strong – they outshot Vancouver 12-9 in the opening period, outhit the Canucks 18-7 and won 12 of 21 faceoffs.
"Give them a lot of credit," Vigneault said. "They played a real good game. They didn't give us much through the first 60 minutes."
Nashville got the game's second power play when Christian Ehrhoff was called for hooking 1:36 into the second period, but Vancouver turned some sloppy play by the Predators into a shorthanded goal.
Burrows, the overtime hero in Game 7 against Chicago, gave the Canucks the lead at the 2-minute mark with his fourth goal of the playoffs. Burrows' initial shot hit Shea Weber's skate, but the Canucks forward managed to get the rebound and put it past Rinne.