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Casey DeSmith makes 29 saves as the Canucks take 2-1 series lead over the Preds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Backup goalie Casey DeSmith finally has his first postseason victory, and he helped the Vancouver Canucks take back home-ice advantage in the process.

DeSmith made 29 saves as the Canucks held off the Nashville Predators 2-1 Friday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series to open the NHL playoffs.

“It couldn’t come at a better time," DeSmith said of his first playoff victory. "I was really disappointed with how I played the other night. I thought the team played great the other night and didn’t get the result they deserved. And tonight I thought we really brought it. We earned that one. So it means a lot.”

This was DeSmith's second straight start and third all-time in the playoffs with Thatcher Demko out since the series opener with an injury. DeSmith gave up three goals on 15 shots as Vancouver lost Game 2.

“His demeanor is just great for that role,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said of DeSmith.

J.T. Miller had a power-play goal and an assist, and Brock Boeser's power-play goal wound up the game-winner. Quinn Hughes had two assists.

Game 4 is Sunday in Nashville.

Luke Evangelista helped Nashville avoid being shut out as he put a wrister top shelf with 3:12 remaining. Coach Andrew Brunette then took his timeout with 2:10 left and pulled goalie Juuse Saros. Nashville couldn't get the puck past DeSmith again.

Brunette said it was a fun game and credited the Canucks with defending well.

“Like I said, the whole series is going to be muddy,” Brunette said. "It’s going to be hard. And we still got to do a better job getting inside.”

The Canucks became the first team to win a playoff game with only 12 shots on goal since Pittsburgh beat Nashville in Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Vancouver went 2 for 3 on the power play and held Nashville scoreless on five advantages. The Predators are just 1 for 14 in this series on the power play. Brunette said they have to move the puck faster and work harder to get closer to the net against the Canucks' bigger defensemen.

Predators captain Roman Josi said they have to get more movement with the man advantage.

“Their box doesn’t move much, so I think we’ve got to get some movement and then just get some shots through, maybe get a dirty goal, a tip or just a rebound,” Josi said. "That’s definitely one thing we need to be better.

The Predators fell to 11-4 in Game 3s on home ice, and this was their second straight loss. They lost Game 3 when they were swept by Colorado in 2022.

When Jankowski failed to clear a puck on the penalty kill, Miller, who had 103 points in the regular season, scored his first goal this postseason at with 6:37 left for a 1-0 lead on their first shot on net.

Boeser put the Canucks up 2-0 with his power-play goal at 4:33, tipping he puck past Saros from in front off a pass from Miller.

The Canucks goalie also made a nice stop at the right post in the third on Cole Smith to preserve the shutout. He had help as the Canucks blocked 30 shots after Nashville matched a playoff franchise-record by blocking 30 shots in regulation to win Game 2.

“We had some big blocks tonight," Boeser said.

STASTNEY OUT

Nashville defenseman Spencer Stastney was boarded in the opening minutes by Canucks defenseman Dakota Johnson. The penalty originally announced as a major, then changed to a minor. Stastney returned then went to the locker room in the second period. He played 6:36.

The Predators didn't have an update postgame. Brunette said he didn't get an explanation for changing the penalty to a minor.

UP NEXT

The Canucks will try to push Nashville to the brink of elimination Sunday. The Predators are 7-7 in Game 4s on their home ice. ___

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl