2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 1 Recap
Western Conference Semifinals Game 1 - Vancouver 1, Nashville 0 – Canucks lead series, 1-0
It’s funny how things work out. As soon as the Chicago Blackhawks exited the playoffs and, more specifically, the world of the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo looked like his old self again.
Yes, as soon as Luongo’s personal nemesis and Vancouver’s chief tormentor finally rode into the playoff sunset, the President’s Trophy winners looked like a top-seeded team. With Chicago in the rearview mirror, the boys from the province of British Columbia breathed freely on Thursday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. As a result, the Canucks dominated the Nashville Predators and claimed a one-goal victory that felt a lot more like a 3-0 decision.
The only goal of the game was scored by Vancouver’s Christopher Higgins at 12:14 of the second period. Teammate Maxim Lapierre made a rush up the right side of the ice and made a diagonal movement toward the net near the right face-off circle. Lapierre deftly made a cross-ice pass to Higgins, who was standing inside the left face-off circle, and he beat Nashville’s elite goalie, Pekka Rinne. The goal held up over the remainder off the game, as Luongo – given only 11 shots to turn aside in the first two periods while the Canucks controlled the flow of play – made nine clutch saves in the third period, including one on a breakaway by Nashville’s Mike Fisher. Yes, the Predators had a power play in the third period, and they generated a great scoring chance when Shea Weber got a good look at a one-timer from the right side of the net, but Weber’s shot air-mailed the crossbar and harmlessly flew off the plexiglass behind the net. Luongo was everything his team needed him to be. More to the point, Luongo was everything he wasn’t against those pesky Blackhawks, whom Vancouver finally – and barely – solved in the NHL postseason. The Canucks said to a man that they’d be a lot better after surviving Chicago, and their words looked very true as they overwhelmed the Predators on Thursday.
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Nashville was playing its very first game in the conference semifinal round, and it showed. The fifth seed looked listless and sluggish, perhaps a product of cross-country travel and perhaps the product of nerves. At any rate, this game would have been a rout if Rinne hadn’t turned aside 29 shots – almost all of them tough ones – from a swarming bunch of blue-shirted Vancouver skaters who flew around the ice. Vancouver gained 17 scoring chances to just 2 for Nashville through two periods, and while the Preds gained more scoring chances in the third period, the Canucks still tripled up their opponent in that important measure of ice-wide supremacy.
Rinne got the first star of the game, and he was the losing goaltender. Needless to say, Rinne’s performance will matter only if his teammates show up for the rest of the series.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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