VANCOUVER – The last time the Vancouver Canucks gave up a late goal they dodged a lethal bullet.
This time the Nashville Predators made them pay. Only time will tell how dearly.
The Predators tied the game with 67 seconds left in the third period, then Matt Halischuk scored the winning goal late in the second overtime to beat the Canucks 2-1 Saturday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series 1-1.
It was a demoralizing loss for the Canucks, who were in sight of taking 2-0 series lead. Now they will watch the Predators return home for Game 3 on Tuesday night riding an emotional high.
The quiet of the Canuck dressing room was broken by one player swearing loudly.
“It’s a little frustrating,” sighed captain Henrik Sedin. “We move on.
“We didn’t expect to beat this team 4-0. We know it’s going to be a battle. We go to Nashville now, make some adjustments and go from there.”
Alex Burrows gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal early in the second period.
Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter forced overtime with the final seconds ticking away in the third period. He fired a shot from behind the net that hit the left skate of Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and deflected into the net.
A frustrated Luongo slammed his stick on the ice.
“It’s a 60-minute game,” said Luongo. “Obviously you don’t want to give up a late goal. Sometimes it happens.
“We had a chance to win in OT.”
Suter admitted the goal wasn’t a classic.
“I was just trying to get it on net and get a whistle,” he said. “I got a fortunate bounce and it went it.”
It’s the second time in three games the Canucks lost a one-goal lead late in the third period.
The Chicago Blackhawks scored shorthanded with less than two minutes left to force overtime in Tuesday’s night thrilling Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs.
The Canucks won that game when Burrows scored in overtime.
Halischuk won it was just 5:09 left in the second overtime. He took a pass from Nick Spaling and ripped a shot over Luongo’s glove.
The Predators streamed off the bench to swarm Halischuk while Luongo hung his head. The crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena quietly shuffled to the exits.
“I was just trying to get it off as hard and quick as I could,” said Halischuk. “I tried to pick my spot and luckily it went in.”
After looking flat and listless in losing the opening game 1-0, the Predators showed more energy and desire in Game 2.
Nashville outshot Vancouver 46-33, but held a 36-15 edge after three periods. The Predators controlled the puck, won faceoffs and outhit the Canucks.
Nashville also continued to get outstanding goaltending from Pekka Rinne.
The Canucks had expected a push back from the Predators. What frustrated Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault was the way his team responded.
“We knew they were going to come out hard,” said Vigneault. “At the end of the day I’m more disappointed on how we played.
“Our execution was off tonight. That cost us. I am giving them credit but I know we can play better than we did.”
Henrik Sedin said the Predators put pressure on the Canuck defence.
“They took away a lot of options from our defence,” he said. “That made it tough for them to make plays.
“They are grinding it out. They stay in game and have an unbelievable goaltender.”
Suter’s goal was the first Luongo has allowed in 1:26:11.
The Canucks were forced to kill two penalties in overtime. In the first overtime Vancouver was called for too many men. In the second, defenceman Kevin Bieksa was sent off for delay of game.
The game was the longest in Nashville’s history.
The Canucks came close to winning with 2:14 left in the firstovertime. Daniel Sedin fed a perfect pass to a charging Bieksa. But a diving Rinne stopped the shot with his chest.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series will be played Thursday.
Burrows’ goal came with defenceman Christian Ehrhoff off for hooking.
With the Canucks on the penalty kill, Burrows gobbled up a turnover by Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn in the neutral zone. He fed the puck to Ryan Kesler as the two broke in on Rinne.
Kesler fed the puck back to Burrows who snapped a shot that hit defenceman Weber. The puck came back to Burrows who knocked it behind Rinne.
It’s been an eventfull week for Burrows, who has four goals in the last four games.
He scored twice, including the overtime winner, against Chicago. On Wednesday night his wife gave birth to a baby daughter, the couple’s first child.
Both Luongo and Rinne are finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top goalie.
During a first-period scramble, one of the Predators blasted a shot that Luongo stopped laying across the front of the net.
Later, he stuck a pad on a Mike Fisher shot during a Nashville power play, then stopped Fisher on a 3-on-1 breakaway.
Rinne flashed his glove to grab a Mikael Samuelsson shot in the second period and slid across his crease to block a Kesler wrap-around attempt.
Some hard licks were handed out. Canuck defenceman Alex Edler pasted Patric Hornqvist into the boards. Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo flattened defenceman Keith Ballard.
There were some anxious moments in the second period when a Weber shot struck teammates Martin Erat on the side of the head. Erat, who just returned from an injury, lay crumpled on the ice for several minutes. He skated back to the bench and later returned to action and earned an assist on the tying goal.
Prior to the game, rocker Elvis Costello performed his hit song Pump It Up with local Vancouver band Odds. Costello, wearing a hat and sunglasses, was shown performing on the video screen on the scoreboard.
Costello is married to jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, who was born in Nanaimo, B.C.
Notes: The Canucks scored 18 goals in nine playoff games. …The Canucks have a 6-2 record in series when they post a shutout. …Since the NHL switched to the conference playoff format the team that wins the first game of a series has a record of 39-25.