Don't Miss

Preds overcome lopsided penalties, beat Canucks…

The 15,337 fans inside Bridgestone Arena used their voices to not only celebrate Pekka Rinne’s outstanding efforts but also to let the referees know how they felt.

The Nashville Predators used the sold-out-sounding volume of the crowd to force a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks tonight. The Preds got goals from Martin Erat, Nick Spaling and Mike Fisher as well as 35 saves by Rinne.

With the 48 pucks he turned aside against San Jose on Tuesday, Rinne has stopped 83 of 86 shots in the last 72 hours. More and more forcing his name into the Vezina Trophy conversation, whether the national media wants him to or not.

While it’s true the Canucks blueline is decimated with injuries, the two points still count the same and, on this night, the fourth-place Predators were better than the Western Conference’s best team.

And the officials.

Vancouver got their first penalty just two minutes into the contest. Nashville was whistled for the next five infractions, most of which were weak, prompting the crowd to let the referees have it anytime they had an excuse to. The Canucks, by the way, took only one more penalty in the game and that came in the final moments when the game was already out of hand.

“At times it’s frsutrating but at times it was our fault,” said Nashville forward Jerred Smithson about the lopsided penalty calls. “The easiest thing to do is to go out there and do what we do best and that’s work hard and play Predators hockey.”

“It’s tough, it’s just one of those things you can’t control,” defenseman Shane O’Brien added. “Obviously, (Daniel and Henrik) Sedin are superstars and they’re gonna get some calls. That’s the way the league goes and they’ve earned that.”

But penalties weren’t the only thing the Predators had to fight through. Their forwards were dropping like flies.

Midway through the first period, Ryan Suter blasted a shot from the point that, instead of hitting Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, it hit Mike Fisher in the right cheek. As play continued, he crumpled to the ice stunned, got to his feet and skated right to the dressing room, leaving a trail of blood behind. He missed the rest of the period but returned in the second with several stitches to show for it.

Early in the middle frame, Marcel Goc crumpled along the half-boards after a hit by defenseman Sami Salo and then skated hunched over straight to the bench. He did not return and was seen walking out of the Preds locker room area with his left arm in a sling after the game.

But that wasn’t all. Just moments later, Steve Sullivan caught a David Legwand cross-ice pass in the face as it skipped up off the ice and struck him. He did not return either.

“We were down to 10 forwards for a portion of the game,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “With Fisher going out really early and then Goc going out, (then) Sullivan went out, Fisher came back… it was a potpourri of lines that you saw today.”

But his team fought through it for the victory.

Erat got the scoring going when he drove hard to the net and tucked his own rebound under the crossbar behind Luongo to make it 1-0.

Then, the previously scoreless game got a little crazy.

Starting off the craziness was the Canucks. When the Preds took a Too Many Men penalty at the tail end of the period, the league’s best powerplay went to work when Deniel Sedin bagged his 30th goal of the year to make it a 1-1 game.

Just seven seconds later, Nashville answered. Spaling roofed a shot over Luongo’s blocker shoulder to take the 2-1 lead.

Then, 55 seconds after Spaling’s tally, Fisher got his first goal in a Preds sweater when he defelected an Alexander Sulzer shot up and over Luongo.

Nashville will now turn their attention to the Phoenix Coyotes who will be in town this Saturday. The Desert Dogs disposed of the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-3 tonight. While the Preds can’t hurdle the Pacific Division leader in the standings, if the San Jose Sharks continue to win, either them or the Coyotes will win the division and leave the other to fight for home ice advantage in the post season so the more games those two teams can lose, the better.

Puck drops at 7:05pm.

* Nashville is now 4-0-0 this year when a TV timeout standing ovation occurs.
* The Preds are 1-1-0 against Vancouver this season.
* Despite missing the last half of the first period, Fisher still logged 18:13 of ice time.
* Shea Weber, Erat, Suter and Sergei Kostitsyn all finished a plus-2.
* The Detroit Red Wings blasted the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 tonight which means the Nashville win kept them pacing the Central Division leaders. They are currently five points behind.
* Both Vancouver penalties were taken by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
* The third period was the only period the Canucks didn’t get double-digit shots on Rinne. They came up one short.
* With his goal and assist tonight, Erat now has 30 points on the year.
* Rinne is in second in the NHL save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (2.07). Only Boston’s Tim Thomas is ahead of Rinne for the league lead in both categories.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 6:31 left in regulation):
1) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
2) Mike Fisher (NSH)
3) Patric Hornqvist (NSH)

1) Pekka Rinne (NSH)
2) Mike Fisher (NSH)
3) Nick Spaling (NSH)

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //