But that didn’t faze the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night. “We’ve been in this situation quite a bit lately, either tied or up one (goal) or down one late into games,” said Steve Sullivan whose breakaway tally was the difference in a 3-2 NHL victory. “It’s not a position that we’re not used to. It’s staying composed on the bench, knowing we’ve got the firepower to get it done. “It’s just a matter of staying patient and waiting for our chances.”
Linemate J.P. Dumont forced a turnover as the Canucks broke into the Predators’ end and spotted Sullivan streaking through the neutral zone.
Sullivan, back in the linup after missing three games with back spasms, got behind defenceman Mattias Ohlund and faced Luongo with the game on his stick.
Luongo made the initial save but Sullivan backhanded his own rebound into the net with less than six minutes remaining in a game that was close checking for nearly two periods.
“I’d just gotten a partial breakaway the time before and I tried to go high glove on him,”Sullivan said after his fourth goal of the season. “I was hoping he was thinking I was going there again.
“I tried to just kind of fake it and go (between Luongo’s legs). He made a great save and the puck was just laying there. I just tried to throw it back on net and it hit the mesh.”
Dumont said he forced the turnover because he knew the Canucks would try to attack in numbers once they gained the Nashville blue line.
“They try to stop and wait for some guys so I just went at the (puck carrier) right away, got the puck while everybody was pretty much going at the net.
“I saw Sully there with the defenceman, turned around and skating forward so it was my chance to give him the puck and he made a nice move.
“We just stayed focused and we got a big goal.”
The goal was big enough to provide the Predators with their fifth straight road victory.
The Predators, who lost 4-3 in overtime to Vancouver on Oct. 21, also won for the seventh time in eight games to improve to 7-3-1.
Vancouver, which had won four of their last five starts, dropped to 7-5-1 as the Predators gave them little skating room for most of the game.
In addition to stopping Sullivan’s first break-in, Luongo also foiled Vernon Fiddler with his hot glove hand after the Predators had forged a 2-0 first-period lead on goals two minutes 38 seconds apart by Alexander Radulov and Ryan Suter.
“That’s my job,” Luongo said of his acrobatic stops. “I hate getting down early like that. It’s a bit challenging mentally when you give up two goals early but you have to fight through and keep battling.”
Radulov’s goal deflected in off Ohlund while Suter jumped into the play to convert Sullivan’s cross-crease pass during a Nashville power play.
Ohlund got a measure of revenge when his power-play point shot handcuffed Nashville goalie Tomas Vokoun after grazing defender Scott Nichol.
Markus Naslund tied the game with less than 12 minutes remaining when Sami Salo’s rebound went into the net off the Vancouver captain.
“It was a tough loss,” said Naslund who is tied for the team lead with six goals. “I think we hurt ourselves early by making those kind of mistakes.”
It was a difficult night for Ohlund who was on the ice for all three Nashville goals.
“It was a tough way to lose, especially since we had a point with a few minutes left,” Ohlund said. “We didn’t play well enough and Lui (Luongo) kept us in the game.”
NOTES: Naslund became so frustrated by some Fiddler stickwork that he took an uncharacteristic poke at the Nashville forward in the third period … Canuck Josh Green says he’s going to wear a visor permanently after being struck by a puck the last time the two clubs met … it was the second of a five-game road trip for the Predators who are in Edmonton on Wednesday night … the Canucks visit Minnesota on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday.