The Vancouver Canucks took an early 2-0 lead and held on to beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Monday and advance to the NHL’s Western Conference finals.
Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin netted first-period goals and Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo made it stand up as the Canucks clinched the best-of-seven series 4-2 to reach their first conference final in 17 years.
The victory enabled Vancouver, who had the best record in the NHL this season, to avoid another Game 7.
The Canucks failed three times to finish off their first-round series against defending Stanley Cup champions the Chicago Blackhawks after taking a 3-0 lead, before prevailing in the decider.
On Monday, Luongo finished with 23 saves in what was a hard-fought defensive series throughout with five of the six games being decided by one goal.
“They’re all tough series, it’s never going to be easy,” Luongo told reporters. “When things are looking down, that’s when you have to roll up the sleeves and go to work.”
David Legwand scored Nashville’s goal after 3 minutes, 31 seconds of the second period for his third score in two games, but the Predators came up short in what was their first trip to the Western Conference semi-finals.
Nashville outshot Vancouver 18-9 through two periods, but Vancouver went into full clampdown mode in the third and held Nashville to just six shots over the final 20 minutes.
Ryan Kesler aided on the two Canucks goals to once again show how vital he is to the Vancouver offense, having scored or assisted on 11 of his team’s 14 goals over the series.
“I kept doing the right things and finally it started to work out for me,” Kesler said. “In the third period, we had one goal in mind, we were going to push the pace and throw everything at them, and not sit back. We did that.”
Vancouver will play the winners of the other Western Conference semi-final between San Jose and the Detroit Red Wings, which the Sharks lead 3-2.