Friday, January 24, 2014
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Spaling scores winner as Predators top Canucks

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[January 24, 2014]  VANCOUVER, British Columbia  Nashville Predators forward Nick Spaling emerged as the star of the show Thursday night, but the script was definitely not to his liking.

Spaling scored the winning goal on a power play and assisted on Nashville's other marker as the Predators posted a 2-1 comeback win over the Vancouver Canucks.

The Predators prevailed after overcoming a 1-0 second-period deficit and being badly outplayed in the first 40 minutes

"That's something we still don't want to do," said Spaling, a 25-year-old Palmerston, Ont., native. "It's just a lot more comfortable when we play with the lead."

The Predators (23-22-7) posted their second straight win while the Canucks (26-17-9) saw their win streak end at two games as they lost for the ninth time in the past 12 outings.

Spaling deflected home defenseman Seth Jones slap shot on a power play at 12:38 of the third. Center Craig Smith also tallied for Nashville as he one-timed Spaling's pass from behind the net.

Left winger Chris Higgins scored for the Canucks, who enjoyed a 34-26 edge in shots.

Ultimately, the Predators won with their penalty-killing success, while the Canucks lost because they could not score on the power play.

The Canucks were blanked on five power plays, while the Predators converted 1 of 4 man-advantage opportunities.

Vancouver failed to score on a four-minute advantage in the scoreless first period after Predators center Matt Cullen received a double-minor for high-sticking. Just 15 seconds after Cullen came out of the penalty box, Nashville center Paul Gaustad was sent off for cross-checking Vancouver center Ryan Kesler, but again the Canucks could not capitalize, and were unsuccessful again in the second and late in the third.

"We had some great looks on the power play," said acting Canucks coach Mike Sullivan. "We had probably four backdoor opportunities that we didn't finish on."

"We were definitely confident (after the second)," said Nashville goaltender Carter Hutton, who stopped 33 shots in the game. "We just had to make some adjustments and we were able to find the back there on that late power play and make it 2-1. It was pretty good. And from there, I thought we were able to lock (the win) down completely."

After Higgins scored on a deflection midway through the second, Smith created a 1-1 tie only 3:28 into the third period as he sent Spaling's pass over Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who recorded 24 saves in the loss.

[to top of second column]

After staying disciplined most of the game, the Canucks took a pair of hooking penalties to Kesler and left winger Alex Burrows 2:40 apart. The hosts killed the first power play, but while Burrows was still in the box, a Jones shot was tipped by Spaling and eluded Luongo, giving the Predators a 2-1 advantage that was anything but expected, considering the way the visitors opened the game.

But Predators captain Shea Weber indicated his club remained confident heading into the final period.

"We just knew we had to get going," said Weber. "It was kind of slow there in the second. We played a lot in our own zone. We just needed to get moving, get skating in the third there."

As Weber lamented his team's start, Sullivan was wishing for a better finish  to the game and Vancouver's scoring chances. The Canucks' power play continued to struggle and the same went for their offense in five-on-five situations.

"For me, it's progress in the right direction," Sullivan said of the power play. "The next step is, we've gotta finish. We've gotta find a way to put (the puck) in the net."

NOTES: Canucks coach John Tortorella served the second of a six-game suspension for storming the Calgary Flames dressing room area after the first period Saturday. Assistant Mike Sullivan again assumed the head coaching duties. ... D Ryan Stanton returned to Vancouver's lineup after missing 15 games with a sprained ankle. C Mike Santorelli came back after missing two with an undisclosed injury. ... Predators assistant coach Lane Lambert missed the game because he returned to Nashville to be with his wife as she began chemotherapy treatments. Player personnel director Scott Nichol took his place for the first of four games. ... D Michael Del Zotto played his first game as a Predator after being acquired in a trade a day earlier from the New York Rangers for fellow D Kevin Klein. ... The Canucks sent C Jordan Schroeder to the Utica Comets of the AHL on a conditioning stint to recuperate from a fractured ankle. The Comets play two games in nearby Abbotsford, B.C., on Friday and Saturday, so Schroeder did not have far to travel. He is expected to be recalled early next week. ... Former Canucks G Kirk McLean was among the inductees into British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame announced earlier Thursday.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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