VANCOUVER – When his mom offers hockey advice, Joel Ward listens.
It’s a good thing, too, because Ward fired a pair of third-period goals four minutes 31 seconds apart to give the Nashville Predators a 4-3 playoff victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“She tells me to trick the goalies … her terminology,” Ward said on the eve of Mother’s Day after scoring the winning goal and his seventh of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I try to tell her it’s a deke but she says ‘trick the goalie,’ so I’ll go with that.”
Cricket was Cecilia Ward’s passion when she emigrated to Toronto from Barbados in 1962, but she’s getting a good grasp of Canada’s game.
“Offside has been a long battle to teach her the rule for that,” said Ward, who has set Predator playoff records for goals and 12 points.
This from an over-achieving 30-year-old third-liner who took the road less travelled to the NHL—an undrafted player from Canadian university hockey at UPEI.
“There’s a lot of people in hockey pools that are not too happy but I just want to win,” Ward said of his playoff scoring surge after 10 goals and 29 points in 80 regular-season games.
He also set up the first of David Legwand’s two goals, a short-handed breakaway on Nashville’s first shot of the game.
Ward came close to a hat trick on a third-period breakaway when the Canucks were pressing but fanned on the shot.
“I’d have been a little bit upset if they came back but it was a relief that we ended up winning the game,” Ward said.
“We’ve got a resilient group here. We’re just hungry.”
The Predators lost forwards Steve Sullivan (knee) and Jerred Smithson (upper body) this series.
Centre Matthew Lombardi, their top off-season signing, played only two games before suffering a concussion.
It was the first elimination game win in franchise history for the Predators after defeats in five previous post-seasons.
The Canucks lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and play Game 6 Monday in Nashville, but the gritty Predators just won’t go away.
They were facing a 3-2 series deficit when they trailed Anaheim 3-2 in Game 5 of that first-round matchup but Shea Weber scored with 35.3 seconds left in regulation.
Jerred Smithson won it in overtime and Nashville captured their first-ever playoff series in Game 6.
The Predators were 67 seconds away from a Game 2 loss here against the Canucks when Ryan Suter banked a puck in off goaltender Roberto Luongo’s skate with his club short handed.
Rookie Matt Halischuk scored in double overtime to gain a split of the series’ first two games.
The Canucks, lost a 3-0 series lead against Chicago last round before prevailing in a Game 7 overtime, beat Nashville 3-2 and 4-2 in the Music City.
“You’ve got to fight yourself out of a corner now and we have to keep doing that,” said Legwand, Nashville’s all-time leading scorer and first-ever draft pick at No. 2 overall in 1998.
“You can’t go down without a fight, just lay over and let them win the series and the game.
“Everyone knows what was happening in Chicago. We just have to keep playing and working hard and doing the right things.”
Legwand gave the Predators the early lead when Ward stripped Canuck Mikael Samuelsson and fed his teammate for a breakaway chance that went under Luongo’s arm.
A fortunate bounce 51 seconds into the second period saw Legwand credited with the goal that gave Nashville a 2-2 tie entering the final 20 minutes.
His shot went over the net, hit the end glass and bounced back.
“I don’t know whose glove it hit … (Canuck defenceman Alex) Edler’s or who it was but it was a fortunate bounce and kind of surprised Luongo,” said Legwand, who has five post-season goals.
“It kind of deflected off a stick and went in the area of the net.”
The bounce gave the Predators life.
“The guys kind of fed off it and kept going from there,” Ward said. “Sometimes desperate plays are for desperate times and we just want to get shots off no matter where it’s from.”
Coach Barry Trotz couldn’t say whether Saturday’s effort was Ward’s best as a Predator.
“He’s played some pretty good ones but I don’t think he’s played a better game in such a big game for us,” Trotz said. “Joel was real strong for us.”
Legwand’s second goal came when the Canucks were dominating the Predators to start the middle period.
“They were jacked up and wanted to get all over us,”Trotz said.
“They were coming hard, you could see that and we were a little on our heels and that built on some belief.
“We bent a few times but didn’t break and when it was on the line our guys dug in and made it happen.’”
Notes: Nashville is now 4-2 on the road in the playoffs … the Predators were 24-9-8 at Bridgestone Arena during the regular season, the second-best home record in the Western Conference.