The Nashville Predators had plenty of reasons to be in a bad mood.
They had lost six straight and had been held scoreless in three of their previous five. Injuries continued to take their top players from the lineup. Oh, and they any chance that they might make the playoffs was miniscule, at best.
So what was the Vancouver Canucks’ excuse?
Whatever the cause, the teams hooked up for a spirited affair Monday before 16,518 at Bridgestone Arena. They combined for 60 penalty minutes, which included coincidental fighting majors, three 10-minute misconducts and an unsportsmanlike penalty call against — of all people — Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
The Canucks got the better of things on the scoreboard and won 5-2, their fifth victory in six outings. In so doing, they officially eliminated Nashville from playoff contention.
“I don’t think anyone’s happy with what’s gone on this year,” defenseman Hal Gill said. “I guess it’s something to look back on when we’re done with the season. ... Right now, it’s just a tough pill to swallow. You want to go out and give everything you’ve got and to play for nothing is tough.”
Vancouver got two goals from center Ryan Kesler, who now has six points (three goals, three assists) in four games back from an injury that sidelined him for more than a month, and strengthened its hold on the Northwest Division lead.
The Predators, though, saved face. Down another veteran with defenseman Kevin Klein sidelined for the first time this season, they battled back from an early two-goal deficit and refused to accept the manner in which Vancouver, led by Alexandre Burrows, attempted to intimidate and frustrate them.
“We found a way to fight back,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… I give a lot of props to our leadership — Pekka, [Shea Weber] fighting to the end, Hal Gill. Guys just stayed together. You have to love that. There’s a group of kids that are working hard and some veteran kids that are showing them the way.
“There’s a lot of fight in the dog, if you will.”
Not surprisingly, things turned on a roughing call. Gill was sent to the box at 16:56 of the second period, just more than five minutes after Bobby Butler tied it 2-2.
It took six seconds for the Canucks to score what turned out to be the game-winner.
The odd part was Gill, the giant defenseman whose 16:59 of ice time was his most since the season-opener, was called for a post-whistle shove of Burrows that was decidedly tame in comparison to many other things that took place during the contest.
“To be honest with you, I thought … I just kind of pushed him,” Gill said. “He was in front of the net. The puck went there and I pushed him down. I’m not too happy with that call.
“I don’t mind him slashing me and hacking me and spearing me. I can handle that as long as I’m able to push back. To make a one-sided call like that, I wasn’t too happy.”
The outcome was no longer in doubt with just over three minutes to play when Vancouver forward Zack Kassian took exception to a shove in the back from Rinne and attempted to do something about it. Weber and Roman Josi jumped to their goalie’s defense and before long every skater on the ice was locked up with someone in some way.
Weber ultimately was assessed two minutes for roughing and a misconduct. Kassian and Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts each got misconducts of their own in addition to roughing calls. Kassian earned an extra two minutes for his cross check on Rinne.
Nashville finished with 27 penalty minutes, its second-highest total of the season.
“Obviously, [Rinne] took exception,” Weber said. “I think maybe they were bumping into him a little more than usual and he was frustrated. It obviously showed at the end.”
• Briefly: Defenseman Mattias Ekholm was recalled from Milwaukee because of Klein’s injury. He played 16:05 and was on the ice for one goal against. … Paul Gaustad (shoulder), Colin Wilson (shoulder) and Gabriel Bourque (knee) all underwent surgery Monday at Vanderbilt Hospital. Things went as expected, which means Gaustad and Wilson will be out roughly four months, Bourque will need two-four weeks of rehabilitation.