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Vancouver Canucks claw out 4-2 comeback win over Nashville Predators in Game 1

Vancouver Canucks celebrate Dakota Joshua's second goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Vancouver Canucks celebrate Dakota Joshua's second goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Elias Lindholm had goosebumps as he took the ice for warm-ups on Sunday.

For the first time in nine years, the Vancouver Canucks were hosting a playoff game - and the crowd of 18,967 wasn't shy about showing their appreciation for post-season hockey, waving white towels, cheering and jeering consistently for more than three hours.

“Goosebumps for sure. Obviously, just being in the warm-ups, people are standing up, you're kind of fired up, kind of have to control your emotions a little bit during the warm-up,” Lindholm said. “It's great to have playoff hockey. Obviously it's a lot of fun.”

Vancouver hockey fans were treated to a show as the Canucks stormed back from a second-period deficit for a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Dakota Joshua scored twice and contributed an assist, while Elias Lindholm and Pius Sutter also found the back of the net. Canucks captain Quinn Hughes added a pair of helpers and Thatcher Demko stopped 20-of-22 shots.

The Predators got goals from Jason Zucker and Ryan O'Reilly, and 17 saves from Juuse Saros.

“I think we just stayed patient the entire game and didn't really push too hard or give anything up when we were down going into the third,” Hughes said. “We got our looks and we knew we were going to get our looks.”

Nashville opened the scoring 15:15 into the game when Zucker collected a pass from Roman Josi and sent a shot through traffic from the top of the faceoff circle.

Lindholm found the back of the net 47 seconds into the second, sending a long wrist shot past Saros to tie the game at 1-1.

Vancouver continued to press, peppering the Preds' netminder with shots but Saros held fast and the Canucks ran into penalty trouble midway through the second, taking three calls in just over six minutes.

Nashville capitalized on their first man advantage of the night after Teddy Blueger was sent to the box for interference.

Gustav Nyquist slid a pass to an unmarked O'Reilly and the veteran centre launched a shot into the top corner of Vancouver's net to put the Predators up 2-1.

The tally was O'Reilly's 26th career playoff goal.

Nashville went 1-for-4 on the power play Sunday while Vancouver was 0-for-3.

“Every power play that you don't score on is a missed opportunity,” said Zucker. “I thought it was nice to get that one. (O'Reilly) and those guys made some great plays there and I thought our (penalty kill) was really good tonight.”

Heading into the third, the Canucks continued to press.

The team's resilience was no surprise to forward J.T. Miller.

“We've been talking about being in one goal games the whole season for these moments, and I love that there was zero panic today, hardly any at all,” he said. “We just stayed with it.”

Suter scored the equalizer 8:59 into the third, tipping in Hughes' shot from just inside the blue line to make it 2-2.

Twelve seconds later, Lindholm checked Lauzon behind the Preds' net and shook him off the puck. Conor Garland picked it up and flicked it to Joshua, who sent it in from the top of the crease to put Vancouver up 3-2.

Hearing the crowd erupt after the goal was “a special moment,” Joshua said.

“I'll never forget it,” he said. “And it makes you want to keep doing it.”

Scoring two quick goals was “huge,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet.

“We score that second goal to tie and it looked like everybody breathed a little bit, even the fans,” he said, adding that his team didn't relent afterward.

“That's the sort of stuff, in playoff hockey you build on momentum, you get the crowd going, you try to build that momentum, get that first shot on net right after a goal. … Sometimes you rest and I didn't see us rest tonight.”

Nashville pulled Saros in favour of an extra attacker and Joshua took advantage, scoring his second goal of the night at the 18:32 mark.

Predators head coach Andrew Brunette thought his side handled the game well, from the emotion and the crowd to Vancouver's heavy forecheck and physicality.

“I thought we were starting to take over the game and we fall asleep on a shift in the offensive zone, lose assignments, don't block a shot and it's 2-2,” he said. “And I thought we had a lot of momentum going there, so that's hockey.

“We got to learn from it and move on, etch-a-sketch memory, short term and move straight ahead.”

HIT PARADE

Sunday's game proved to be a physical affair, with the Canucks registering 39 hits and the Predators putting up 32. Joshua and Nashville winger Cole Smith led the category with six apiece.

HELPING OUT

Josi now has 32 career post-season assists, setting a new high for the Predators. He also holds the franchise mark for playoff points by a defenceman with 43.

UP NEXT

Game 2 is set to go Tuesday in Vancouver. The series will move to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2024.

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