NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vancouver Canucks have taken a 3-1 series stranglehold over Nashville in their Western Conference semifinal, thanks in large part to a dominant defence corps.
Blue-liners Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler each scored Thursday as the Canucks won 4-2 over the Predators.
Ehrhoff scored Vancouver’s first goal and picked up two assists, including the primary assist on Ryan Kesler eventual game-winner at 7:28 of the third period.
In 11 playoff games this season, Ehrhoff has two goals and seven assists, including five points in his last two games.
“We needed contributions from our defence, and we got some tonight,”Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault said.“I thought they did a good job of finding lanes to get pucks through traffic in front of their net and obviously they got rewarded with a couple of goals.”
With just under five minutes remaining in the opening period, Ehrhoff’s long snap shot managed to slip by Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. Alexandre Burrows provided a menacing presence in front of Rinne on the goal, prompting the six-foot-five Finn to inquire about interference after the puck crossed the goal line.
Referee Kevin Pollock indicated that if there was any contact, it occurred outside of the goal crease and allowed the goal to stand.
“At that point, I didn’t have enough time to slap it anyway, so it worked out fine,”Ehrhoff said of his goal.“Tonight we chipped in from the back end, and that is what we need. Different guys have to step up in different games.”
Ehrhoff later assisted on Edler’s goal at 9:43 of the second. Much like his helper on Kesler’s power-play goal in Tuesday night’s Game 3, Ehrhoff came down from the point to make a play below the Nashville goal line.
“When you get contributions from your D-men it’s nice,”Kesler said.“They work extremely hard in the D-zone and they have big shots back there, so if we can get traffic and they can hit the net, they have good enough shots to score from there.”
Goaltender Roberto Luongo was similarly impressed with the defence’s contributions in Game 4.
“They were great,”he said.“They have been chipping in offensively all year. Obviously they are the type of D-men that can join the rush and create some offence as well, but when it is time to play defence they can do that too.”
The game also marked the return of veteran Vancouver defenceman Sami Salo after missing four games with an undisclosed injury.
Salo had been out of the Canuck lineup since Game 6 of Vancouver’s quarter-final series against the Chicago Blackhawks. In that game, the 36-year-old Salo played just 2:07 before leaving that contest.
Late in the first period Thursday, Salo was sent to the penalty box for shooting the puck over the glass from inside his own zone. Nashville made the Canucks pay for that penalty, as Joel Ward scored a power-play goal with 41.6 seconds remaining to tie the score 1-1.
Salo had two hits and two blocked shots in 16:45 of ice time in Game 4.