Nashville Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo, right, fights with Vancouver Canucks left wing Alex Burrows (14) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mark Humphrey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Jason LaBarbera looked pretty good in a Vancouver uniform.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday after Curtis Sanford was injured, LaBarbera made 31 saves Thursday night in the Canucks' 2-1 victory over Nashville. "I really liked the way he challenged the shooters," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "He seemed really confident in goal throughout the game.
The last time LaBarbera faced the Predators was with the Kings on Oct. 25 when he gave up three goals in 13 minutes and was pulled from the game.
"I wanted to establish my position," LaBarbera said. "I've had some tough luck against Nashville in the past so it was good for me to get the win against them."
LaBarbera's legs started to cramp, but he wouldn't leave the game.
"My quads and my hamstrings were tightening up on me," LaBarbera said. "It happens to me every once in a while, but I was able to get through.
"It was awesome, especially the last 10 minutes. I was cramping up pretty bad. To be able to get through that was exciting."
Vigneault met LaBarbera at the airport Thursday morning. Even though he had not skated in a couple of days and did not know the Canucks' personnel very well, LaBarbera told Vigneault he wanted to play.
"To come out and here and play the way that he did was really encouraging," Vigneault said. "There are some games where you go out and play really well and don't win and there are games where you play so-so like we did tonight and your goaltender is capable of keeping you in the game and helping you win. That's what happened tonight."
LaBarbera, from Burnaby, B.C., always wanted to play for Vancouver.
"As cheesy as it sounds, it was obviously a dream of mine," LaBarbera said. "I never expected that to happen."
Vancouver has won its last five games against Nashville, three this season.
Jason Jaffray scored the winner with 4:06 left in the third, deflecting Willie Mitchell's slapshot past goalie Pekka Rinne, who has lost three straight.
"I lost the puck," Rinne said. "It just went over my blocker."
Vancouver opened the scoring when Mattias Ohlund, shooting low from off of the left boards, beat Rinne high to his glove side with a wrist shot at 7:19 of the first period.
The Predators tied it on Rich Peverley's goal at 7:53 of the second period. Peverley found the net with a one-timer from a few feet out on the left side.
"It is something we have worked on a little bit," said Peverley. "It is just a back door play. It was a great play since (Radek) Bonk knew I was going to be there and that I was going to have a wide-open net."
It was the first game between the teams since Dec. 9 when Nashville's Scott Nichol sustained a concussion and J.P. Dumont was hit in the head. Nashville coach Barry Trotz thought both hits were serious enough for sanctions by the NHL, but league officials did not agree. Nichol has missed nine straight games.
While the Predators stressed they would not be seeking revenge, Jordin Tootoo and Vancouver's Alex Burrows squared off 22 seconds into the game. Burrows was responsible for the hit to Dumont.
The rest of the game featured some fierce hitting from both sides, with Nashville's Wade Belak and Vancouver's Darcy Hordichuk exchanging punches at 6:16 of the third period.
"You just have to stick up for each other and I think we did that," Tootoo said. "We played hard, but we just didn't get the bounces."
Notes: Dumont hasn't scored a goal in 10 straight games. ... The Predators have only nine goals in their last seven games. ... Vancouver is 2-3-0 in its last five.