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Canucks ready for all-Canadian second-round after eliminating Predators

Vancouver Canucks Nashville Predators handshakes Vancouver Canucks Nashville Predators handshakes - The Canadian Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet won't deny being one of the NHL's final eight teams still alive means a lot.

An all-Canadian showdown against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round?

Even better.

“We know the next series will be tough," Tocchet said Friday night after his Canucks advanced by downing Nashville 1-0 in Game 6.

The Jack Adams finalist for NHL coach of the year took the Canucks from a team that missed the postseason a year ago by finishing 11th in the Western Conference to placing third in the West this season. They won the Pacific Division with 109 points, winning all four games with Edmonton.

The Canucks survived a low-shooting series with Nashville, with each of the final four games decided by one goal.

Pius Suter ended a scoreless tie with his second goal this postseason with 1:39 left for the latest winning goal in a Canucks' series-clinching game. That topped Daniel Sedin's goal with 2:03 left in Game 6 of the 2010 conference quarterfinal.

Even then, the Canucks had to kill a penalty in the final 33.9 seconds as Nashville pulled goalie Juuse Saros for an extra attacker.

Canucks captain Quinn Hughes, a Norris Trophy finalist, said it's a great feeling.

Vancouver had not won a playoff series outside the pandemic bubble in 2020 since their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011. The Canucks also clinched a series against the Predators in Game 6 in Nashville during that run.

“We stuck to what we wanted to do the whole game," Hughes said. "We didn’t crack. I thought we played really good team defense. I thought (rookie goalie Arturs Silovs) played amazing. We knew we were going to have our looks. Brock made a great play, Pius great finish.”

The Canucks now are in the second round after missing the postseason a year ago for the fifth time in franchise history. They also advanced in 2020, 2009, 2007 and 1974.

This will be their first postseason series against the Oilers since 1992, and Edmonton won that second-round series in six games. The Oilers have been resting since ousting the Los Angeles Kings in five games on Wednesday night.

“I have thought about it for more than two seconds to be honest with you,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller said of facing the Oilers.

Tocchet will have to decide which goaltender to start. Vezina Trophy finalist Thatcher Demko has started skating from an injury that sidelined him after a Game 1 win, and Casey DeSmith has been healthy enough to back up Silovs the past two games.

All three goalies won at least one game in the first round, just the seventh time in NHL history a team won a playoff series where at least three different goalies started a game and the third in 50 years. Philadelphia did it in 2011, and Detroit did it in 1988.

Silovs made 28 saves to become the 14th rookie goalie in NHL history to finish off a series with a shutout and just the fifth in 30 years. At 23 years and 42 days, Silovs also became the youngest goalie in team history with a playoff shutout. Demko had been the only other goalie to do that before turning 25.

“For him to step in as a young kid like that, step into playoff games, big games and play the way he did, it was awesome,” defenseman Tyler Myers said of Silovs. “It was great to see.”

Vancouver will have to produce more offense after having a combined 92 shots through the first five games. That was the fewest to start a playoff series through five games since 1960, second only Washington who had 90 in the 1998 Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Hopefully, some of those goals will go in for us in the next series,” Tocchet said.


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