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Shea Weber's late goal lifts Nashville to 3-2 win in Vancouver

Shea Weber capitalized on a rare 4-on-3 power play late in the 3rd period to score the winner as Nashville took a 3-2 victory in Vancouver tonight, in what was a weird and wild game. Seven different Predators tallied one point each, and Dan Ellis made 30 saves for the win.

Click the photo above for the gallery, then follow after the jump for video highlights, reaction, and advanced even-strength stats...

The referees, unfortunately, played too large a role in this game, although the bad calls went both ways at various times. Facing an elite opponent on the road, I noted in the Game Day Preview that staying out of the box would be critical for the Preds, not least because those crazy Green Men were up to their antics again.

So what does David Legwand do? He takes a hooking penalty in the opening minute. Fortunately, however, Joel Ward (in his return to the lineup for the first time since January 5 vs. Calgary) bailed him out with a beauty of a shorthanded goal, scored on a breakaway.

Despite enjoying the lead, however, the Preds always seemed like they needed to scramble around in their own end too much. The Canucks outshot them 13-8 in the 1st period, and tied it up as Alex Burrows continued his torrid scoring pace. Momentum was starting to turn in Vancouver's favor, but a Nashville power play goal by Ryan Jones in the final minute of the period sent Nashville into the intermission with a 2-1 lead.

The truly strange stuff started early in the second, as Dan Ellis got called for an incredibly cheap roughing call; surely enough, another Alex Burrows goal came just seconds later, and the crowd in Vancouver smelled blood. The game was tied, Burrows was chasing his 3rd hat trick in four games, and the Predators were hot under the collar after the penalty. They did get a power play of their own when Henrik Sedin "interfered" with Ellis by flopping all over him for an extended period of time (see photo at top), but the Preds couldn't convert it. While again outshot 11-8, Nashville hung on and took the game into the 3rd period tied 2-2.

In the final period, a steady parade to the penalty box provided most of the drama. First it was Burrows getting whistled for diving, which was not just a bad call (it didn't look like he did), but also a rare one in that usually, a Dive is also accompanied by the opponent also getting called for Hooking, Interference or Tripping (as occurs 88% of the time). While Nashville didn't score with that power play, it set a tone for how the Canucks played down the stretch.

After each team killed off a penalty during the middle part of the period, the critical sequence occurred in the final five minutes. With Ryan Jones in the box for hooking, Vancouver set up for a key faceoff in the Nashville zone. Burrows charged towards the net off the drop and bumped with Ward, who went down to the ice, and the refs called Burrows for interference - again, a heinously bad call. That set up a 4-on-4 situation, which turned into a 4-on-3 for Nashville when Henrik Sedin went off for tripping.

Given that last, and unlikely, chance to win the game, the Predators came through. A big blast by Shea Weber hit the top corner for just his 2nd goal since November, but it was good enough to give the team a 3-2 lead with just minutes to play. Outside of a Mason Raymond wraparound attempt with around 3:00 left, Vancouver didn't really get good chances as Nashville held on for the win.

Just for good measure, however, Burrows got himself another 12 minutes in Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties with 4 seconds left, giving the officials his money's worth. Either that, or he was practicing his Nancy Kerrigan "Why me... Why???" imitation.

UPDATE: After the game, Burrows claimed that one of the officials was "out to get him" for making a hit by Jerred Smithson back on December 8 look worse than it was.

As for the Preds, they'll take the two points and steal off to Edmonton, for another late-night clash tomorrow. In the chase for the Western Conference playoffs it wasn't just sweet to earn the two points for the win, but also to deny Vancouver a point for making it to overtime. Positions 3-7 in the West are separated by a mere two points right now, with Nashville in 5th after tonight.

The Preds' next home game is Monday, January 18th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. For discounted tickets to this or any other Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".

Looking at the advanced even-strength stats, it was clearly a rough night for the line of Joel Ward, David Legwand and Martin Erat, but their special teams work mostly made up for it. As a team the Preds lost the Total Shots count 60-45 to Vancouver. Patric Hornqvist continued putting pucks on net at every opportunity, and Ryan Jones had a productive night as well.

Even Strength Individual Totals Team Totals While Player Is On Ice
Player Pos EV TOI Shots Shts Blkd Missed Shts Blocks SOG For SOG Ag SOG +/- Tot SF Tot SA Corsi
Joel Ward R 17:27 1 1 0 1 3 11 -8 8 22 -14
David Legwand C 15:32 2 1 0 2 3 14 -11 7 25 -18
Marcel Goc C 15:22 2 1 1 0 9 8 1 18 15 3
Martin Erat R 15:18 0 0 0 0 3 12 -9 7 22 -15
Patric Hornqvist R 15:08 6 0 2 2 9 11 -2 17 17 0
Steve Sullivan L 13:12 1 0 0 0 6 9 -3 12 15 -3
Cal O'Reilly C 11:32 0 0 1 1 5 6 -1 8 11 -3
J P Dumont R 10:36 3 0 0 0 6 5 1 9 9 0
Ryan Jones L 9:41 1 1 0 2 8 3 5 12 6 6
Nick Spaling C 5:33 1 0 0 0 2 4 -2 2 5 -3
Andreas Thuresson R 3:36 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 3 3 0
Wade Belak R 2:58 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 2 -1
Kevin Klein D 19:09 0 0 1 2 7 10 -3 14 21 -7
Dan Hamhuis D 18:27 0 2 0 1 8 10 -2 14 20 -6
Ryan Suter D 16:59 1 0 0 0 8 13 -5 10 24 -14
Shea Weber D 16:12 1 0 2 0 9 13 -4 14 21 -7
Francis Bouillon D 11:55 0 1 1 0 3 7 -4 10 13 -3
Cody Franson D 9:36 0 1 0 0 3 5 -2 8 6 2