NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ryan Kesler and the Vancouver Canucks finally have put some of their vaunted offence into their series with Nashville, and they also may have ticked off the Predators.
Kesler drew a penalty, then tipped in a shot for a power-play goal at 10:45 of overtime to give the Canucks a 3-2 win over the Predators on Tuesday night. Vancouver grabbed a 2-1 lead in this Western Conference semifinals series, bouncing back from a 2-1 double overtime loss in Game 2.
The winning play was set up when Kesler and Nashville defenceman Shea Weber tangled along the boards with Weber’s stick getting caught up by Kesler. The forward was bent over with Weber trying to yank away his stick when officials called Nashville’s captain with hooking Kesler.
“He was hooking me, and I thought it was a good call,” Kesler said.
Weber and the Predators disagreed. Fans responded to the winning goal angrily, tossing free towels and other debris onto the ice. Weber sat in the penalty box looking stunned and later called it a questionable call that cost Nashville the game.
Predators coach Barry Trotz was much more direct in calling it a bad penalty.
“He chicken-winged the stick and kept moving, and really if you look at it, Webs is pushing on him, trying to pull his stick out of there,” Trotz said. “I’ve seen it before. One of the earlier games, he drew a couple penalties like that by chicken-winging the stick and just holding it there and keep moving and see if he can sell it.”
Just 40 seconds later, Kesler tipped in a shot from Mikael Samuelsson for the winning goal that put the Canucks back in front in the series.
“It was a great shot by Samuelsson,” said Kesler, who also had an assist. “I just tried to get in front of him. I saw it coming at me, and I just tried to get out of the way. It was a great shot. For us, we worked hard enough. We were the harder working team.”
That the Canucks certainly were. They outshot Nashville 47-30 for the game, taking as many shots (15) in the first period as they did all of regulation in Game 2. A power-play that hadn’t scored in six chances went 2 of 4 in this game as Kesler tied it up at 1-1 60 seconds into the second period and then came up with the game-winner.
“Our power play, which has been one of our weapons all year long, was able to come back and score two big goals for us,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
Chris Higgins had a goal for Vancouver, and Christian Ehrhoff had two assists for the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the regular season.
Game 4 is Thursday night.
Joel Ward and David Legwand both scored for the Predators, who matched the Canucks’ energy but not their shots. Trotz said his Predators missed five chances at the net early in the first period and got too cute on the man advantage. Nashville went one power play passing so much it never took a shot at the net.
“We passed up way too many shots tonight,” Trotz said.
Ward tied it 2-2 with 6:42 left in regulation, skating behind the net and sweeping the puck into the open net past goalie Roberto Luongo’s outstretched left leg. Luongo called it a lucky bounce off a skate.
“That’s two games in a row, but we stuck with it and got a big goal in overtime,” Luongo said.
Vigneault switched up his lines, moving Alex Burrows back with the Sedin twins. The move worked early as Burrows had a shot from in front that was stopped by goalie Pekka Rinne.
Legwand put the Predators ahead 1-0 at 10:18 with a short-handed goal, his third this post-season on Nashville’s fourth shot.
Nashville nearly had a second goal when the puck bounced off Matt Halischuk, who scored the winning goal on Saturday night. Canucks centre Maxim Lapierre shoved Halischuk into the crossbar and knocked the net off its moorings. The play was reviewed and the goal was waved off.
Luongo, who stopped 44 shots in Game 2, stretched his right leg out and stopped Steve Sullivan on a breakaway chance with 2:02 left in the first to keep it.
“Obviously, we need key saves at key times, and we got some,” Vigneault said. “They also had somekey saves at critical times. Both goaltenders are the best in the league, so we are getting a real good battle in there.”
The Predators promise to bounce back.
“We’ve got to win Thursday night,” Legwand said.
NOTES: With Kesler’s goals, the Canucks improved to 2 for 10 in this series and 3 for 26 overall against Nashville with the man advantage this season. … Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin—the NHL scoring champion this season—had an assist for his first point of the series. … Nashville went 0 for 3 and is 0 for 26 on the power play against Vancouver. … Suter had an assist on Legwand’s goal and has three points in two games. … Sullivan sustained an undisclosed lower body injury late in regulation and didn’t return.