VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - It took the Nashville Predators six tries and 12 years to make the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After the first game, coach Barry Trotz is still waiting for them to show up.
Badly outshot and outplayed for two periods, Pekka Rinne made 29 saves to keep the Predators in it, but didn't get nearly enough help as the Vancouver Canucks opened the Western Conference semifinals with a 1-0 win Thursday night.
``The biggest disappointment you can have is when you have an expectation from someone who you want to go to war with every night, and they're letting you down,' Trotz said. ``Too many passengers, not enough guys pulling on the rope. I mean we're in the conference semifinal. Are you kidding me? Not acceptable.'
Rinne kept it close early on, but fellow Vezina Trophy finalist Roberto Luongo made nine of his 20 saves in the third period to ensure Chris Higgins' goal with 7:46 left in the second stood up as the winner.
For Luongo, the hardest part was staying awake while facing just 11 shots the first two periods, especially while Rinne was busy turning aside 25 of 26 - several in spectacular fashion - to give the Predators a chance.
``Shots are 20-5 so you don't want to give up a goal and all of a sudden it's 1-0 for them,' Luongo said. ``That's your mindset, you focus on getting involved in the play and making sure you are sharp when you do get a shot.'
The toughest Luongo faced was a short-handed breakaway 5:20 into the third period, but he patiently waited out Mike Fisher's glove-side shot.
``A couple shots early in the third and I was able to settle in,' Luongo said of his second shutout during this postseason and No. 3 for his career in the playoffs.
The Canucks, who host Game 2 on Saturday, wasted little time settling into the second round.
Just two days after beating archrival Chicago in Game 7 of a series in which Vancouver had held a 3-0 lead, they looked more like a Presidents' Trophy-winning team while outplaying Nashville. Vancouver quickly ended any fears of a letdown, but early on couldn't solve Rinne, who made several spectacular stops.
``That was not Predator-style hockey,' captain Shea Weber said. ``There's no excuse for it. Our biggest game of the season so far, and we didn't show up.'
While most wondered if the Canucks might struggle, it was the fifth-seeded Predators who looked a bit road-weary after arriving in Vancouver on Wednesday night. Nashville, off since eliminating Anaheim in Game 6 on Sunday, came out flat.
Vancouver outshot Nashville 16-5 in the opening period, but Rinne was up to the challenge.
``I don't know what was the problem,' said Rinne, refusing to blame the travel or late arrival. ``It was us. We respect their team, it's a good hockey team, but it was us. We just didn't have it. Last series we were the ones dictating the pace of the game, and tonight it was the other way around.'
Higgins finally scored on the 24th shot after a turnover at the blue line led to a 3-on-1 down low and Maxim Lapierre's cross-ice pass left an empty net.
``We had some great chances and he made some big saves,' Higgins said.
NOTES: Both teams were 0 for 5 on the power play. ... Canucks LW Alex Burrows scored the series-clinching goal Tuesday, and his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Victoria, the following night. ... The Canucks are in the second round for the fourth time in five seasons, but haven't reached the Western Conference finals since 1994.
The Associated Press News Service
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