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Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, centre, looks on as Nashville Predators' Matt Halischuk celebrates his game winning goal with teammate Jerred Smithson during the second overtime period of game 2 of an NHL Western Conference semi-final Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, April 30, 2011. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, centre, looks on as Nashville Predators' Matt Halischuk celebrates his game winning goal with teammate Jerred Smithson during the second overtime period of game 2 of an NHL Western Conference semi-final Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, April 30, 2011. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)

Halischuk gives Preds OT win over Canucks Add to ...

In one swoop of Ryan Suter's stick, a game sprang to life.

So did an NHL playoff series.

The Vancouver Canucks were in the midst of another tedious 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators late Saturday, but just as television sets across the land were turning off - if they weren't already - the heavens parted and angels sang hosannas. With 67 seconds remaining in regulation, Suter swatted at a puck from behind the net for a most unlikely goal, and the plucky Predators went on to a thrilling 2-1 win in double overtime.

The best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

"As I went to cut it off, I think it deflected off of [defenceman Dan Hamhuis's]stick and hit the heel of my stick, hit my heel, and went in," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said of the game-tying goal.

Former world-junior hero Matt Halischuk, who scored the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the 2008 under-20 championship, beat Luongo glove-side in the 95th minute for the game-winner. The teams saved an ugly game with some excellent action in the extra sessions, notably Pekka Rinne's miraculous saves on Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa and Henrik Sedin.

Goaltending continues to be the signature on this series.

In Game 2, Nashville's Rinne made 32 saves to Luongo's 44. Vancouver's goaltender earned a 20-save shutout in Game 1, but Rinne was the game's best player.

The Canucks carried play after regulation, but were highly inferior through three periods, outshot 36-15. Head coach Alain Vigneault bemoaned a lack of finish, citing four outnumbered rushes that failed to produce a shot, including a botched three-on-one that led to a three-on-one the other way.

"It's pretty unacceptable to have 14 shots [sic]in regulation," Bieksa said. "We picked it up in overtime and started playing our game, but definitely did not generate enough five-on-five."

After two games at Rogers Arena, the favoured Canucks have two goals against the Predators, and they have but nine goals in six meetings this season. Vancouver is averaging just two goals per game in the postseason, the worst among clubs still pursuing the Stanley Cup.

The frustration level is mounting, evident by one player who was twice heard screaming an obscenity from the player's lounge adjacent to the dressing room at Rogers Arena.

"In overtime, we had a lot of chances and we should've won it," captain Henrik Sedin said. "It is a little frustrating. We could've been up 2-0, but we move on."

Alex Burrows scored shorthanded two minutes into the second period, and the Canucks sat (ineffectively) on the ensuing 1-0 lead. They almost got away with it until Suter tallied Nashville's first goal of the series, and his team's first in more than 144 minutes against Vancouver dating back to the regular season.

"We sat back and played in our end a bit, but I felt like we gave up a whole lot of great chances in that time," Bieksa said. "We were a minute and a half away from winning in regulation, and we didn't get the job done."

Burrows and Kesler continue to create scoring opportunities, but the Sedin twins are a mess right now and Vigneault resorted to some never-before-seen combinations in an attempt to get his top line firing. He used Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen in place of right winger Mikael Samuelsson, hoping two less-heralded players can help ignite his superstars.

"They are our top players, and obviously we need them to perform like top players," the coach said. "They are working hard, sometimes you have to give the opposition credit."

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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