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Canucks defeat Predators in Game 3, take 2-1 series lead

Nashville –

Six seasons into his NHL career, Casey DeSmith finally has his first playoff win.

The 32-year-old goalie made 29 saves Friday, backstopping his Vancouver Canucks to a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.

The win gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.

“It couldn’t come at a better time,” DeSmith said. “I was really disappointed with how I played the other night. I thought the team played great the other night and didn’t get the result they deserved. And tonight I thought we really brought it. We earned that one. So it means a lot.”

DeSmith wasn’t supposed to be Vancouver’s starter for the team’s first playoff run since 2020. But after Game 1, all-star netminder Thatcher Demko went down with an undisclosed injury. He’s currently considered week to week.

The backup netminder’s demeanour has allowed him to slip seamlessly into the high-pressure spot, said Vancouver Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

“(DeSmith’s) not an uptight guy, he’s always got a smile on his face. I think it’s infectious when he comes in,” Tocchet said. “Even if he has a tough night or things don’t go his way, he comes in, spends hours (working on his game), never complains and his demeanour is just great for that role.

“I think he was just locked in (tonight). I think just his personality keeps him even keel.”

Vancouver leaned hard on special teams for the win, going 2-for-3 on the power play and killing off all five penalties it faced.

J.T. Miller had a goal and assist for the Canucks, while Brock Boeser scored and Quinn Hughes contributed a pair of helpers.

Luke Evangelista replied for Nashville late in the third period, scoring his first career playoff goal.

Juuse Saros stopped 10 of 12 shots for the Predators. The 12 shots were a franchise low for the Canucks.

“(The Canucks) defended extremely well, like they have all series,” said Nashville’s head coach, Andrew Brunette. “The whole series is going to be muddy. It’s going to be hard. And we still got to do a better job getting inside.”

The Predators overwhelmed the visitors early, penning the Canucks in their own zone for several minutes at a time.

Vancouver was called for two penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game, and weathered both, thanks in part to DeSmith. The netminder denied Ryan O’Reilly at the 5:40 mark, using his paddle to send a speedy wrist shot up and out of the way.

Midway through the frame, DeSmith drew a penalty when he was levelled by Michael McCarron behind the net.

The Canucks’ power play got to work, dishing the puck around the perimeter and looking for the right opportunity. Hughes connected with Miller and the forward blasted a shot past Saros from above the faceoff circle, scoring on Vancouver’s first recorded shot of the game 13:23 into the first.

Vancouver went up 2-0 thanks to another man advantage early in the second when Predators’ defenceman Roman Josi was sent to the box for tripping.

Stationed near the boards, Miller sliced pass to Boeser, who directed it in from the top of the crease at the 4:33 mark.

“I think this was the perfect time in a game where your power play needs to step up and it was timely for us,” Miller said.

Nashville had a prime opportunity to eat into the deficit midway through the third when the visitors went down two men for 21 seconds. Boeser had been called for tripping, and late in the penalty kill, Nikita Zadorov sent a puck up and over the glass.

O’Reilly got a chance from the side of the crease but sent his shot into the head of Vancouver defenceman Ian Cole and the puck pinged up and over the net.

“We had a pretty good game. We held them to, what? Eleven shots I think? So I felt like we had most of the game 5-on-5,” said Josi.

“Our power play needs to step up. Obviously, their power play got two goals, which was the difference. I thought we pushed hard and we kept going. We just couldn’t get another goal.”

Evangelista beat DeSmith 16:48 into the final frame, whipping a wrist shot on net from the faceoff circle as he fell to his knees to make it 2-1.

INS AND OUTS

Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers returned to the lineup after missing Game 2 with the flu. Noah Juulsen, who slotted in for Myers, was a healthy scratch.

The Predators have rolled out the same players for the first three games of the series, but saw defenceman Spencer Stastney leave the game with an upper-body injury after getting hit by Vancouver’s Dakota Joshua midway through the first period.

ELITE COMPANY

Hughes registered his 19th and 20th career playoff points and became the third player in Canucks history to collect at least 20 points in his first 20 playoff games. Trevor Linden and Thomas Gradin completed the feat first, with each putting up 21 points in their first 20 post-season appearances.

UP NEXT

Game 4 is set to go Sunday in Nashville.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

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