NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Fisher took a puck off his right cheekbone, got stitched up and came back. Then he helped his new team put away a big win with his first goal since being traded to Nashville.
Fisher scored 49 seconds after Nick Spaling’s goal late in the second period, and the Predators beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 Thursday night for their third victory in four games.
“It took a while to get stitched up, but after that it was just stopping the bleeding,” Fisher said. “I felt fine.”
The Predators needed Fisher back because forward Marcel Goc was injured early in the second period and didn’t return. Steve Sullivan also got hit by a puck to the face in the period, and he was taken to a local hospital for tests. That left Nashville coach Barry Trotz with 10 forwards, and he stayed busy mixing and matching three lines.
“It was a potpourri of lines that you saw out there,” Trotz said.
Martin Erat had a goal and an assist, and Fisher’s goal was his first since he was traded to Nashville a week ago. The win pushed the Predators out of a tie with four other teams and into fourth in the Western Conference.
Nashville evened the season series at a game apiece. Vancouver, which leads the West, remained the NHL’s top team with 83 points.
Daniel Sedin scored a power-play goal for the Canucks, who were playing their third game in four nights. Kevin Bieksa was a scratch due to a broken bone in his left foot, their sixth defencemen out due to injury.
All the injuries and a couple of rookie replacements had defenceman Christian Ehrhoff on the ice for a game-high 27 minutes, 13 seconds.
“That’s definitely not the best team they can put on the ice, but at the same time they still had their top three lines and their fourth line,” Predators defenceman Shane O’Brien said. “That brings them some energy. So it was a good challenge.”
Vancouver had its chances, outshooting Nashville 36-26, but goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots and improved to 15-2-1 when his team scores at least three goals.
“Their goalie played well,” Canucks forward Ryan Kesler said. “He won them the game. They got a couple of lucky bounces there that obviously when you tie the game and then give up two goals in 50 seconds you’re not going to come back against a team like that.”
The Predators had some unlucky bounces, too.
Fisher played only 3:12 of the first after taking a puck to his right cheek about midway through the period. He went directly to the dressing room for stitches but returned. Sullivan, however, didn’t return after taking a puck to his face late in the second, and Trotz said he would have an update Friday.
David Legwand tried to pass to Sullivan in the left circle for a shot, but the puck deflected off a stick and into Sullivan’s face. He dropped immediately to the ice where he was tended to before slowly skating off.
Erat put the Predators up 1-0 when he scored his 10th off a rebound of his own shot from the slot with a wrister past Roberto Luongo at 14:13. Nashville was called for too many men on the ice, and Sedin scored with a wrister from the right circle off an assist from twin brother Henrik 28 seconds later for a rare goal against the NHL’s best penalty killers on home ice.
That just fired up the Predators.
Patric Hornqvist corralled the puck near the boards off the faceoff and fired the puck at the net, where Spaling backhanded it past Luongo to put Nashville back ahead seven seconds later. Then Fisher, with stitches on his right cheek, tipped in Alexander Sulzer’s slap shot for a 3-1 lead at 19:11 of the second.
Trotz said scoring so quickly was huge for the Predators. Luongo said he didn’t see Fisher’s goal and hadn’t looked at a replay after the game yet, either.
“It was a pretty good tip by him, reaching out and deflecting it with the tip of his stick back towards the net. I didn’t see if it was a hand pass or not, but it was a pretty good play by Fisher,” Luongo said.
With the two-goal lead, Rinne just deflected shot after shot in the third to preserve the victory.
Notes: Nashville F Marcel Goc got hurt early in the second period withan upper-body injury when he went down near the boards. He did not return. … Sedin’s power-play goal snapped a five-game streak for the Predators of being perfect on the penalty kill. They came in having killed 26 of 27 penalties in the previous eight games. … Nashville captain Shea Weber has 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in his last 22 games. … The Predators improved to 21-3-6 when scoring first and 23-1-4 when leading after two periods.