Vancouver's special teams struggle as Canucks fall 3-2 to Predators

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VANCOUVER — Lacklustre special teams continued to dog the Canucks on Friday as Vancouver dropped a 3-2 decision to the Nashville Predators.

The Canucks went scoreless on five power-play chances and coughed up goals on 2 of 3 penalties, leading to a stark assessment by head coach Travis Green.

“They weren’t very good. It’s pretty simple," he said of his special teams.

“PK has to be better, the power play has to be better and our game’s going to be fine. We’ve got a couple players that probably need to play a little better. Five on five, we’ve done a lot of good things but special teams have to be better.”

The Canucks' penalty kill has struggled mightily early this season and was tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the fourth-worst in the league (70 per cent) ahead of Friday's game.

Vancouver had a prime opportunity to change the narrative midway through the third after Alex Carrier was called for interference.

But the lone shot of the power play belonged to Nashville who saw a short-handed breakaway chance from Colton Sissons stopped by Canucks netminder Thatcher Demko.

The power play was the difference in the game, said Vancouver right-winger Brock Boeser.

"It just comes down to effort," he said. "I think it comes down to shooting the puck, putting in the effort to get the puck back, opening up another shot, shoot it again, crash the net. We’ve just got to keep it simple, can’t keep looking for the perfect play. We’ve just got to find a way. There’s no excuses.”

Roman Josi and Philip Tomasino both scored for the Preds (6-5-0) on the man advantage, and Matt Duchene added an even-strength tally. Mikael Granlund contributed a pair of assists.

Boeser and Nils Hoglander replied for the Canucks, who fell to 4-6-1 on the season.

Vancouver got another strong performance from Demko, who stopped 25-of-28 shots.

Juuse Saros registered 26 saves for Nashville and collected his fifth win of the year.

“It's nice to see Juuse, just the consistency that he's playing with, the confidence that he's playing with and again tonight he made big saves at big times and that's what you need," said Predators head coach John Hynes.

“He makes big saves at big times and that's what elite goaltenders do. You can't win without goaltending and you can't win without great goaltending, and I think we've had that for pretty much all year."

The Preds took a 3-2 lead into the third period with their second power-play goal of the night 19:15 into the middle frame.

Mattias Ekholm sliced a pass across the crease to Tomasino, and the centreman sent a wrist shot flying bar down and in to give Nashville the lead.

"I thought it was a hard fought game," Hynes said. "There were stretches in the game where they played really well and took it to us. I thought we did the same. Probably when you break it down, special teams obviously were a big difference in the game."

Granlund set up the equalizer earlier in the period, springing Duchene for a solo opportunity deep in Vancouver territory.

Duchene faked a shot, then popped a backhander in over a sprawling Demko to make it 2-2.

The Canucks gained some momentum midway through the second with multiple chances for a go-ahead goal.

Hoglander finally gave the home side its only lead of the night 10:08 into the period with some patient play.

The Swedish winger received a pass from Bo Horvat in the slot and patiently out waited Saros before tucking a shot in behind the goalie's skate for his first goal of the season.

“I just get the puck in the slot and try to do a move and I scored on it," said Hoglander, whose parents Anders and Maria, were sitting in the crowd of 18,870.

The first period ended with a flourish after Boeser drew the Canucks even with 8.6 seconds to play.

The right-winger drew Saros to the top of his crease, then seamlessly pulled the puck to his backhand before tapping a shot into the empty net for his third goal of the year.

The Predators opened the scoring with an early power-play marker after Hoglander was called for tripping Josi just over five minutes into the game.

Josi capitalized 24 seconds into the penalty, ripping a slap shot directly into the Vancouver net from near the blue line.

“We know we have to be better on both sides, PK and PP," said Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers. "You can tell guys are working. It’s not that. We’re missing pucks by a couple inches here and there and it’s not going our way right now.”

The Canucks continue their homestand Sunday against the Dallas Stars. Nashville wraps up a four-game road trip in Chicago the same night.

NOTES: Canucks forward J.T. Miller has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 11 games this season. … Vancouver has allowed the first goal six games in a row. … Friday marked the Canucks' fifth annual Diwali night. The club marked the occasion with colourful warm-up jerseys and performances by South Asian artists during intermissions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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