VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Nashville Predators knew they had to get better on special teams to stay in the hunt for an NHL playoff berth.
Both the power play and the penalty kill came together for them Monday night in a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Defenceman Shea Weber blasted the winning goal with the man advantage with 4:03 remaining while Joel Ward short-handed and Ryan Jones, with another power-play goal, gave them a 2-1 first-period lead.
“That’s something we’ve really talked about lately,” said Weber who scored on a 4-on-3 power play and now has two goals and seven assists in seven games after a five-game points drought.
“Our special teams have got to get a lot better. They’re going to win us games, especially down this road. The Western Conference is so tight and teams are so good 5-on-5 you’ve got to be good on special teams.”
The win allowed Nashville to vault over the Canucks and into a fifth-place tie in the Western Conference while Vancouver dropped to seventh with their second consecutive home loss.
The Predators came into the game facing the league’s top power play on home ice and ninth on the penalty kill.
They left with their ninth win in 12 road games to improve to 27-16-2 while Vancouver slipped to 27-17-2 and missed a chance to move into a first-place Northwest Division tie with Calgary and Colorado.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said shutting down twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who were on the power play with Alex Burrows, was a key to the win.
“We know that they have such good reads,” Trotz said. “If you can separate the Sedin twins a little bit … they see each other so well we said let’s put (the puck) in the hands of their defence because once (the Sedins) have it they can do so many things in tight spaces, it’s remarkable.”
Ward scored on a short-handed breakaway on the first shot of the game while Jones tipped David Legwand’s centring pass through traffic behind goalie Roberto Luongo.
“We just came together as a group, said we had to focus because power plays are something that can win you games and a penalty kill keeps you in them,” Jones said.
Burrows, who was in the penalty box when Weber scored his winner, continued his torrid scoring pace with goals on tip-ins at even strength and on the power play, but after the game he accused referee Stephane Auger of being out to get him.
The Vancouver winger said Auger told him during the warm-up that he made him look bad when Burrows drew a major penalty after Predator Jerred Smithson charged him in Nashville on Dec. 8. Smithson also received a game misconduct.
Burrows, who has nine goals in his last five games and 19 for the season, was off for interference when Weber scored.
He earlier drew a diving penalty and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and a 10-minute misconduct with four seconds remaining when he complained about Auger’s calls.
“He said he was going to get me back tonight and he did his job in the third,” Burrows said of the referee.
“He called me on a diving call I didn’t think was diving, he got me on an interference call that I have no idea how he could call that and it changed the game.
“It sucks right now for teammates that are battling hard for 60 minutes to win a hockey game because every two points are so huge, so important, and because of a guy’s ego it just blows everything out of proportion and they’re making bad calls and the fans are paying for it and we’re paying for it.”
Asked if he expected to be suspended for his comments Burrows replied: “Maybe, I don’t know, but I think he (Auger) should sit out the rest of the year making calls like that.”
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said the remarks were Burrows’ opinions but the club would look into them although he stopped short of calling for the league to investigate.
“If those (allegations) are true, then they’ll need to be brought up … I haven’t looked into that. I just heard about it a while back there, so we’ll see what happens.
“We’re going to talk to Alex (Burrows). We’re going to the bottom of this, and we’ll see what (recourse) we have and we’ll take it from there.”
Vigneault said his club battled hard after Ward scored short-handed when Canuck defenceman Alex Edler mishandled a pass in the offensive zone.
“It was a hard-fought game there for two and a half periods and then penalty issues happened and they made us pay.”
NOTES: Henrik Sedin extended his points streak to 10 games while Daniel Sedin got two assists for 500 NHL points … Predators captain Jason Arnott missed a second game with an upper body injury … Ward (wrist) and Francis Bouillon (flu symptoms) didn’t play in Saturday’s loss to Anaheim … Nashville has six of its next seven games on the road … Canuck forward Steve Bernier was out with a sore groin and Jannik Hansen drew into the lineup … defenceman Sami Salo returned to the Vancouver lineup after a one-game absence with a cut over his left eye inflicted by teammate Willie Mitchell’s stick … rookie blue-liner Evan Oberg returned to the AHL Manitoba Moose.