Canucks eliminate Predators, will face Oilers in second round

An all-Canadian clash awaits the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the NHL playoffs.

And Vancouver isn't expecting an easy matchup.

"We're in for a tough series," said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

The Canucks advanced with a grinding 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators Friday, winning their best-of-seven opening-round matchup 4-2.

Next up, they'll take on the Edmonton Oilers, who won Game 5 Wednesday and ousted the L.A. Kings from the first round for the third year in a row.

A second-round meeting between Edmonton and Vancouver means a Canadian team is assured a spot in the third-round Western Conference final.

The Oilers and Canucks have not met in the playoffs since 1992 when Edmonton won the second-round series in six games.

Vancouver won all four regular-season contests between the two teams this year.

Canucks forward J.T. Miller said Friday he hadn't thought about who his team will face next, but he noted Vancouver weathered a lot to grind out a series win over Nashville.

"(The Predators) they play so hard and every single line competes," he said. "They don’t give you freebies. They are very aggressive, so I think sometimes we got our looks because of their aggressive nature. When they are on, they are very hard to play against. They block so many shots. It’s very frustrating up front. You feel like you did everything right to get the look and they are in the lane.

"It was a hell of a series. Obviously, tonight could have went either way. I think either way and both teams would have felt good about how they played today."

Vancouver used three different goalies to oust the Predators, including rookie Arturs Silovs, who posted his first-ever NHL shutout in the Game 6 win.

Despite the pressure and charged atmosphere, the 23-year-old Latvian remained calm and turned away all 27 shots he faced.

"I just embraced the challenge," Silovs said. "I knew I had already had played on big stages before. I was already familiar with what would happen, what kind of games they were going to be. It was a great opportunity for me to play for the big club and seize the opportunity."

The victory over Nashville marks the first time the Canucks have won a playoff series outside of the pandemic bubble since 2011. That year, Vancouver reached the Stanley Cup Final on a run that included a Game 6 win over the Preds in Nashville.

The NHL has not announced when the first game between the Oilers and Canucks will be played, but round two of the playoffs is set to begin Sunday.

Making it through to the second round marked a special moment for Tocchet.

“It means a lot because we’ve grown as a team," the coach said. "We’re not pretty. We are who we are. But we hang in and the guys buy in. … We’ve had our moments, but we don’t apologize for who we are. We just try to keep marching along."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press