VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Vancouver defenseman Lee Sweatt was too happy just to play his first game in the NHL to even think about winning it for the Canucks.
Sweatt, the 25-year-old former Colorado College player who spent his first four professional seasons in Europe, scored the winning goal with 7:29 left in his NHL debut, and Vancouver rallied from an early third period deficit to beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Wednesday night.
"I was just happy to get on the ice and it was kind of just the icing on the cake with the cherry on top." Sweatt said. "I never would have thought I would score in my first game. It's definitely a dream come true."
Nashville captain Shea Weber opened the scoring 37 seconds into the third, but Alexandre Burrows tied it midway through the period and Sweatt put the Canucks ahead for good a little less than 2 minutes later.
Daniel Sedin kept the puck in at the Nashville blue line and fed across to Sweatt to create a 2-on-1 down low with Burrows. Sweatt, in the lineup only after Alex Edler had back spasms, fired a shot under the blocker-side arm of goalie Pekka Rinne from the right faceoff dot.
"I was like, 'I can't believe I just did that,' but it was a great pass and I pretty much just shot the puck," said Sweatt, who started his first NHL game as the butt of a friendly joke by his new teammates.
The Canucks sent him out first for warmups, and no one followed, leaving Sweatt to skate the first few laps by himself in front of the home crowd. But they were all gathered around him after he scored the winning goal.
"We thought it was pretty funny," Burrows said. "But it shows a lot of depth when we have guys come up from the minors and play as well as he does."
Vancouver has won two in a row after a 0-1-3 slide and only has two regulation losses in the last 25 games. The Canucks remain five points ahead of Detroit atop the Western Conference and tied Philadelphia for the NHL lead with 71 points.