Vancouver 2 Nashville 1
NASHVILLE — Daniel Sedin and Mason Raymond scored first-period goals, and Roberto Luongo made 23 saves as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 to advance to the Western Conference finals Monday night.
The Canucks, who had the NHL’s best record this season, reached the conference finals for the first time since 1994, when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games before stretching the New York Rangers to seven games in the Cup final.
Vancouver will face the winner of the series between the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings in the next round.
“We have bigger things in mind,” said Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler, who had an outstanding series against the Predators. “We’re not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals.”
Raymond gave Vancouver the lead 7:45 into the game and Sedin made it 2-0 just 1:43 later. Luongo did the rest for the Canucks, who were outshot 24-19. Vancouver recorded only nine total shots in the first two periods.
Kesler assisted on both Vancouver goals, giving him five goals and six assists in the series.
“Kes really elevated his game in this series,” Vancouver defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. “I think he did it with, more so than skill, with will and determination. He wanted it as much as much as anyone and he showed it.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he had a tough time finding a matchup for the scrappy Vancouver forward.
“He was a force the whole series,” Trotz said. “He had one of those series that was absolutely remarkable. If he doesn’t play that way we’re probably going to Game 7.”
David Legwand’s goal 3:31 into the second period cut Vancouver’s lead to 2-1, but the Predators couldn’t avoid elimination again and force a Game 7.
After grabbing the early lead, the Canucks put the game away with defence. Nashville had 11 shots in the first period, but only 13 over the final 40 minutes.
The Canucks got some help to get their offence rolling as Predators defenceman Ryan Suter turned over the puck to Kesler right next to the net. Kesler passed to Raymond, who backhanded a shot past goalie Pekka Rinne.
Sedin doubled the lead while Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo served an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving, after he was hit by Alex Edler. Sedin connected just 36 seconds into the power play.