Robbed by Luongo on a 1-on-1 earlier in the third period, Sullivan knocked in his own rebound on a second breakaway with 5:41 left to lift the Nashville Predators to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.
Sullivan was almost past the goal line after being stopped the second time, but managed to reach back and tap the loose puck just over the prone goaltender.
“I was trying to go five hole and Luongo made a good save on me, said Sullivan, who also was denied by a dramatic glove stop minutes into the third. “But the puck was just lying there and I was able to take a second whack at it and it fluttered in. I just tried to get a stick on it and pray.”
Sullivan also set up Ryan Suter’s early power-play goal, and rookie Alexander Radulov scored his second goal in four games as Nashville improved to 7-0-1 since losing their first three games of the season.
“We got off to a bad start this season and we have ground to make up,” said Tomas Vokoun, who made 22 saves to improve to 6-0-1 his last seven starts after giving up 11 goals in his first two.
The lone blemish over the Predators’ last eight games was an overtime loss to the Canucks 10 days earlier, when Vancouver overcame a late deficit before winning in overtime. Tuesday’s game looked similar for a while.
Nashville jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Luongo kept the Canucks in the game with a couple of neat glove saves before Vancouver rallied.
Mattias Ohlund scored late in the second and Markus Naslund tied it 8:12 into the third with a wrist shot from the slot that trickled past Vokoun as he was bumped by Jan Bulis at the side of the crease. Despite protests of goalie interference and a video review, the goal stood.
“It wasn’t a hard shot, I saw it all the way but at the exact moment the shot came he made contact with me and kind of pushed me over and I lost the puck,” Vokoun said. “They checked upstairs and said our defenseman pushed him into me.”
Unlike the last meeting, however, Nashville had Sullivan in the lineup. After missing the first game with a sore back, the speedy winger jumped behind the defense after a bad Vancouver turnover and was sent in alone by J.P. Dumont.
“He pushed me in the net with his stick (on the initial shot) so I was almost facing the other way,” Luongo said. “I don’t know if it was intentional or not but he got his stick on my pad and with my momentum it drove me into my net so it’s pretty tough to make a save when you’re in the goal.”
Vancouver couldn’t tie it after pulling Luongo for an extra attacker. The Canucks buzzed the Nashville net in the final seconds but couldn’t beat Vokoun, instead losing for just the second time in the last six games.
“We didn’t deserve two points,” said Ohlund, citing a slow start that included him tipping Radulov’s harmless 50-foot shot perfectly over Luongo’s glove 5:33 into the game.
Suter doubled the lead on the power play less than 3 minutes later, pinching in to snap in Sullivan’s cross crease pass from the side of the net. Suter hit the cross bar on another power play early in the second and Luongo made a dramatic glove save off Vernon Fiddler on a 3-on-2 later in the period as the Canucks avoided falling behind by three goals for the first time all season.
“That’s my job,” said Luongo, who finished with 21 saves “I hate getting down early like that all the time, it’s a bit challenging mentally when you give up two goals early, but you’ve got to fight through those things and keep battling.”
Ohlund made up his earlier gaffe by pulling the Canucks within a goal just as a power play expired late in the second period, scoring from just inside the blue line when Vokoun couldn’t squeeze the long shot between his arm and body.
Canucks D Willie Mitchell is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms after being hit into the glass in Nashville 10 days ago and hasn’t been cleared to even resume exercising off the ice yet. … Vancouver was 5-0-0 against Central Division teams coming into the game. … Predators LW Paul Kariya, a Vancouver-area native, is one point short of 800 for his career. … Nashville LW Martin Erat and Vancouver RW Taylor Pyatt both had their five-game point streaks snapped.