VANCOUVER – Blake Geoffrion’s ancestry includes some of the biggest names in Montreal Canadiens lore, but the young forward is content just trying to make the most of his surprise stint with the Nashville Predators.
Geoffrion, a 23-year-old rookie playing just his fourth NHL game, scored the winning goal as the Predators blanked the league-leading Vancouver Canucks 3-0 before a disappointed sellout crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena.
The goal was Geoffrion’s second in as many games. The Nashville-raised forward was called up to his hometown club Saturday from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Geoffrion said. “I’m just trying to keep riding the wave as long as I can and having fun and working hard.”
Nashville (33-23-9) won for only the second time in seven games, but Thursday’s victory moved them into seventh place in the West, and only one point back of three teams tied for fourth.
The Canucks (40-16-9) suffered their third loss in five contests. Despite the setback, Vancouver was still in first place in the Western Conference and overall NHL standings and retained a four-point cushion on Detroit. The Red Wings lost to San Jose on Thursday.
Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand, with an empty-netter in the final minute, had the other goals for the Predators, who posted their second win in three meetings with the Canucks. Pekka Rinne picked up his fifth shutout of the season but was rarely tested as both clubs recorded 29 shots while going 0-for-2 on the power play.
Geoffrion, a fourth-generation NHLer, broke a scoreless tie at 1:59 of the third, burying Jordan Tootoo’s pass from behind the net over Roberto Luongo’s shoulder.
“Toots made a heck of a pass and I just buried it past Luongo there,” Geoffrion said. “It was a great feeling to get that goal.”
Geoffrion is a descendent of three former Canadiens. His great-grandfather Howie Morenz and grandfather Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, both hall of famers, starred offensively for the Habs while winning multiple Stanley Cups, and his father Danny also played for the Canadiens.
But the younger Geoffrion, who does not speak French, took a different route to the NHL after Danny moved to Florida to work in the insurance industry. Blake was born in Florida and raised in Nashville.
The Preds’ 2006 second-round draft choice came up through the U.S. national development program, won a Hobey Baker Award in his fourth and final season at the University of Wisconsin in 2009-10.
He began his pro career in Milwaukee during last spring’s AHL playoffs and continued with the Admirals this season, not expecting to get called up so early.
“It was a shocker, actually,” Geoffrion said. “I didn’t even know. The coach told me during a pre-game skate. I was getting ready to play a game that night, jumped on a flight, met the team in Dallas and I’ve been here ever since … I’m taking it all in and having fun.”
He made sure the hosts did not enjoy themselves. The Canucks have now gone four straight periods without scoring and alternated wins and losses in the last 12 games.
But captain Henrik Sedin was still pleased with the effort.
“I thought we played our best game in three or four weeks,” he said. “We didn’t give up much and we had a lot of scoring chances. You might go home and think we played a bad game, but if we play this type of game, we’re going to score more goals.”
Hornqvist scored at 17:39 as he stripped Vancouver defenceman Dan Hamhuis of the puck in front of his net and beat a sprawling Luongo, who was deprived of his 300th career win and 30th win of the season.
“We’re having a tough time finding the net,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “Both teams were smart with the puck and when you are there’s not a lot of room,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. “It’s a battle to find open space and chances and it was tonight. I thought the effort from both hockey teams was solid.
“They made us pay for two of our mistakes and we didn’t make them pay.”
Tootoo’s assist on the winner was his first point since he returned Feb. 19 after missing 23 games because of substance abuse issues.
“I definitely am feeling a lot better. When you’re away from the game for that long it takes a little while to get back in the swing of things,” he said. “I thought I had one of my better games.”
NOTES: Referee Justin St. Pierre left the game in the second period with a sprained ankle. Dave Jackson served as the lone ref for the rest of the game. The sellout crowd jeered former Canuck Shane O’Brien as he was penalized for high-sticking Jeff Tambellini in the first five minutes, but Vancouver did not muster much of an attack during the power play. … Nashville’s J.P. Dumont was the game’s lone healthy scratch. … Newly-acquired winger Chris Higgins, out with a broken thumb, and defenceman Kevin Bieksa, out since Feb. 17 with a broken foot, are expected to join the Canucks during their upcoming five-game road trip. … Rookie Nashville defenceman Jon Blum, a former star with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, played his first game against the Canucks after making his NHL debut Feb. 22. … Vancouver centre Manny Malhotra is one goal away from 100 for his career.