NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Just when it looked like Nashville was headed for a loss, the Predators found a way to win.
Rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third-period, the Predators beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 Thursday in a shootout.
Craig Smith scored the decisive goal in the fourth round of the shootout.
James Neal and Filip Forsberg scored for the Predators in the third period, with Forsberg tying the game at 13:08.
“I think we started off pretty bad in the first (period), but the second was better so we kind of had a little bit of momentum going into the third,” Forsberg said. “Obviously, from there we just created a lot of (chances). It was a really good effort by all of us.
Nashville (38-23-13), which holds the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, moved within two points of Chicago, the Central Division’s third-place team. The Blackhawks were idle.
“That was a great play by Colin (Wilson) to get me the puck there in a good spot and I was able to find the low blocker shot and use a little bit of a screen,” Neal said. “So it was good to get that in. Willy did a great job with us and he’s skating well, and he made some great plays.”
Vancouver (27-33-13) ended its longest scoring drought in franchise history, but the Canucks lost their sixth straight game.
Bo Horvat and Daniel Sedin scored first-period goals for the Canucks, whose last win was over the Predators on March 12.
Horvat ended the drought at 234 minutes, 52 seconds when he poked home a rebound to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead at 6:52 of the opening period.
Nashville improved to 4-1 in shootouts.
“Yea, the shootouts are good,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Johansen is really good at it. You know, that trade gave us a real weapon in the shootout. He’s really patient as you saw tonight.”
Vancouver, which began the night 12th in the Western Conference, was shut out in its previous three games. The Canucks scored their first goal since the first period of a 3-1 loss to Colorado on March 16.
Canucks goalie Ryan Miller made 30 saves and took the loss. His career record fell to 4-0-1 in Nashville.
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne (31-19-10) made 23 saves and earned the win. Rinne is 11-1-2 in his past 14 games.
“I don’t know what’s the reason, but we’ve been really strong in the third period as of late and that was a key for us again,” Rinne said. “A couple of big goals — Nealer and then Filip, Offensively, they’ve been carrying us and it’s a great sign.”
The Canucks increased their lead to 2-0 on Daniel Sedin’s power-play goal at 14:39 of the first period.
Henrik Sedin fed his twin brother with a pass from behind the net, and Daniel Sedin snapped a shot from the low slot that beat Rinne high blocker side.
Predators captain Shea Weber was in the penalty box for hooking.
Nashville’s penalty killers hadn’t allowed a goal in 27 consecutive penalties before Sedin’s 27th goal ended the streak.
The Predators hadn’t allowed a power-play goal the previous eight games.
Vancouver was in an 0-for-26 skid on the power play before Sedin’s goal. The Canucks hadn’t scored on the man advantage in their previous eight games.
“It’s never good to lose, but you’ve got to look at the way we played and I thought we played one of our best games of the year,” Henrik Sedin said. “Getting the D involved, them coming back, but they’ve got a great team over there. They’re Cup contenders and they’re going to make a push.”
Neal narrowed the gap to 2-1 by scoring from the low slot at 11:56 of the third period for his 29th goal of the season.
Forsberg tied it at 2 with a wraparound backhander for his 31st goal of the season, bringing a roar from the crowd.
Nashville extended its home point streak to nine games (6-0-3).
The Predators improved to 14-2-4 against Canadian teams after winning two of three against Vancouver. All seven Canadian teams are likely to miss the playoffs.
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins was pleased by his team’s effort.
“The biggest thing we look for is the effort and there have been a couple games that is hasn’t been right where we want it,” Desjardins said. “You look at (defenseman Nikita) Tryamkin, he was great tonight, played a lot of minutes. I thought Horvat played good tonight.”
NOTES: Nashville set a team record with its 31st sellout of the season as 17,113 filled the arena. … Canucks RW Jannik Hansen, who has scored 19 goals, returned to the lineup after missing the past 11 games with a rib injury. He joined the first line with LW Daniel Sedin and C Henrik Sedin. … Vancouver began a tough stretch against seven teams that appear to be playoff-bound. … Predators LW Filip Forsberg, 21, is the NHL’s youngest 30-goal scorer this season.