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Canucks beat Preds, return to conference finals

May 10, 2011 - 5:21 AM
Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - The Vancouver Canucks are back in the Western Conference finals for the first time in 17 years thanks to a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of a Western Conference semifinal series.

Daniel Sedin and Mason Raymond had first period goals while Roberto Luongo made 23 saves for the Presidents' Trophy winning Canucks, who last made it to the conference finals in 1994 when they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games to advance to their second Stanley Cup Finals.

That series saw Vancouver, which featured Russian superstar Pavel Bure, lose in seven games to the New York Rangers.

Vancouver now awaits the winner of the San Jose/Detroit series. The Sharks won the first three games of the set, but have dropped the past two with Game 6 set for Tuesday in Detroit.

"We knew we wanted to take care of business tonight and we came out strong," said Luongo. "I thought we did a good job protecting the lead and now have a bit of time to prepare for the next round."

David Legwand scored in the second period and Pekka Rinne made 17 saves for the Predators, who were in the semifinals for the first time in club history after dispatching Anaheim in the first round.

"It's just an empty feeling we all have right now," said Rinne. "You don't want to go home early and you don't want to lose your last game, but it happened and we now have the offseason to think about it."

Vancouver had a chance to win the series at home on Saturday, but a pair of third period goals from Joel Ward helped Nashville win an elimination game for the first time in franchise history.

The Canucks, though, came out on fire and scored two goals less than two minutes apart to take a 2-0 lead.

The first goal came at the 7:45 mark as Ryan Suter turned the puck over in his own end. Ryan Kesler grabbed the disc and his first pass attempt was blocked, but he again got the puck and from behind the left side of the net he centered it for Raymond, who shifted to the backhand and slid the puck in.

An unsportsmanlike conduct call on Jordin Tootoo for diving led to a Vancouver power play at the 8:52 mark. Just 36 seconds later, it was a 2-0 game as Henrik Sedin threw a pass on net from the deep right boards that Kesler tipped on net and Daniel Sedin cleaned up from the left side for his sixth goal of the playoffs.

Luongo was strong in the first period as he made 11 saves, but Nashville got on the board just 3:31 into the second.

From a sharp angle at the right side of the net, Legwand threw the puck at Luongo and it went underneath the left elbow of the goaltender, who fell backwards just as the puck crossed the line. The referee near the net called a goal on the play and a subsequent review upheld the call.

The Vancouver defense did its job in the final frame as the team limited Nashville to just six shots and no power plays.

Even with Rinne pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators were unable to establish any pressure as the Canucks spent much of the time in the Nashville end.

In the closing seconds, Shea Weber unleashed a one-timer on net from the high slot, but Luongo turned it aside and Vancouver punched its ticket to the third round.

Game Notes

The Canucks won all three games that took place in Nashville...It is the third time the Canucks have made it to the conference finals...Luongo and Rinne are both up for the Vezina Trophy...Vancouver went 1-for-3 on the power play while Nashville was 0-for-5...This was the first time these two squads met in the playoffs...Kesler, who had two assists in the game, leads the playoffs with 17 points, seven goals and 10 assists.