Nashville Predators right wing Martin Erat (10) gets caught between Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa, left, and defenceman Alexander Edler, right, in the first period. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Mark Humphrey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Vancouver Canucks thought they played a hard, physical game in pulling out a tough road win.
The Nashville Predators? They disagree - strongly. Defenceman Alexander Edler scored a power-play goal 24 seconds into the third period, and Vancouver pulled out a 3-1 win over Nashville in a game the Predators counted three dangerous head shots.
"The league will handle it," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I'm trying to protect my players. There's two things that's unwritten. Don't go after the head, and you don't go after the knees. I think in the hockey code, I think they crossed the line a few times."
The Canucks had lost the first three games in the midst of a seven-game road trip that's their longest this season. With one game remaining before heading home, they now have won two of three while earning five of a possible six points.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault thought his team found a way to pull out a win.
"The only thing I found special with calls in the game we were not allowed to hit them. Every time we threw a good strong clean hit, there was a scrum after. It is part of the game. It was a physical game. They took offence to some of the hits we threw," Vigneault said.
Pavol Demitra put Vancouver up 1-0 at 8:35 of the first. Kyle Wellwood found him with a cross-ice pass, and Demitra scored on a wrister past Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis stickside. Alex Burrows added an empty-netter with 44 seconds left for Vancouver, which has won five straight in this series and the first two this season.
Radek Bonk scored on a 5-on-3 for the Predators who returned home angry after a sloppy 6-3 loss in St. Louis on Monday night.
Their lone goal came on a 5-on-3 created when Vancouver was whistled for too many men on the ice with a player trying to jump back over the boards. Bonk scored his second this season by tapping the puck just inside the post off assists from Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont at 11:03.
The scoring was a sideshow to the hitting. The first came on Nashville forward Scott Nichol in the first period and knocked him out of the game with an upper body injury.
Then at 5:12 of the second, Burrows left his feet and pushed his right elbow into Dumont's face, knocking him down. Jason Arnott went after Burrows and was given a game misconduct along with an instigator penalty and fighting major.
Burrows wasn't penalized, Vancouver defenceman Shane O'Brien was given a game misconduct and the Canucks wound up with the man advantage for seven minutes.
Arnott said he thought the NHL was cutting down on such hits. He was even more furious that Burrows was not penalized.
"I knew he left his feet. You see it on the replay, and he lands after he hits J.P. It's a blatant call, and there's two guys out there. I don't know how they didn't see that. Then the guy runs Webby (Shea Weber) from behind. He didn't need to hit Webby like that, from behind, run his head into the glass," Arnott said.
Burrows said he didn't see the replay but thought his hit on Dumont was clean.
"I don't want to injure the guy. I know the guy. We work out together in the summer. That is the last thing I want to do," Burrows said.
The Predators killed it off as the teams skated through the entire seven-minute power play. Fans erupted into a standing ovation when Ellis stopped Steve Bernier from in front and then covered the puck as Mason Raymond tried to knock in the rebound.
Kevin Bieksa missed a shot within the opening minute of the third, Daniel Sedin slid and poked the rebound over to Edler in the right circle, and he scored his second for the 2-1 lead.
"Daniel made an unbelievable pass," Edler said. "He had two guys on him and passed it behind his back. I had an empty net, so that is not a very hard shot for me."
Nashville had two power-play chances inside the final 11 minutes, but goalie Curtis Sanford protected the lead.
Notes: Nashville right wing Jordin Tootoo was scratched from his first game this season with a lower body injury and is day-to-day. ... The Predators dropped to 3-2-0 in the second of back-to-back games. ... Demitra now has 38 career points in 41 games played against Nashville. ... The Canucks improved to 5-1-0 against the Predators, 11-8-1 in Nashville.