Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots and made Chris Higgins' second-period goal stand up in the Vancouver Canucks' 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday night in Canada.
It was Luongo’s second shutout of these playoffs and the third of his NHL postseason career. He made nine saves in the third period, including a short-handed breakaway by Mike Fisher 5:20 in, for the Canucks, who will host Game 2 on Saturday.
Pekka Rinne had several spectacular stops among his 29 saves to keep the Predators in the game despite his club being outshot 30-20 and outplayed for long stretches.
The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks got right back into action just two days after beating archrival Chicago in overtime of Game 7 of a series in which Vancouver had held a 3-0 lead.
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But it was the fifth-seeded Predators who were a bit road-weary after arriving in Vancouver on Wednesday night. Nashville, off since eliminating Anaheim in Game 6 on Sunday, came out flat in its first second-round game in team history.
Vancouver outshot Nashville 16-5 in the opening period, but couldn’t beat Rinne, who made the best of a handful of great saves with his glove.
Higgins finally scored on the Canucks’ 24th shot, taken with 7:46 left in the second after a turnover at the Nashville blue line led to a 3-on-1 down low.
Higgins, who also opened the scoring in the first round, took a cross-ice feed from Maxim Lapierre in the slot and fired a shot as Rinne stacked the pads while sliding across. The puck went off Rinne, and up and under the crossbar.
Anaheim’s Corey Perry, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis are finalists for the Hart Trophy given to the NHL’s MVP.
Sedin led the league in scoring with 104 points (41 goals, 63 assists) while teaming with his twin and linemate, 2010 NHL MVP Henrik, on the Canucks’ dominant top line.
Tampa Bay at Washington, 4 p.m., Versus (series opener)
Detroit at San Jose, 7 p.m., Versus (series opener)