May 6, 2011, 12:08 AM EDT
If you ask many hockey people, Ryan Kesler is just as big a part of the Vancouver Canucks’ success as the Sedin twins. Some will even say that he is their true MVP.
He’s also a wildly different player than those Swedish siblings. While Henrik and Daniel Sedin aren’t likely to make an impact on a game if they aren’t scoring (or creating a lot of chances), Kesler’s two-way play and agitating presence requires attention even when he’s not lighting up the scoreboard.
After struggling to score goals for a big chunk of the playoffs (but doing just about everything else), Kesler is finding the net against the Nashville Predators. His tendency to draw penalties and score heart-breaking goals is making him perhaps the first true villain for the still-relatively-young Predators fan base.
Vancouver 4, Nashville 2; Canucks lead series 3-1
Kesler drew a penalty (and plenty of ire) in overtime of Game 3 before scoring the game-winner on the ensuing power play, but that image won’t live on in hockey history. Not compared to his absolute beauty of a game-winning goal from Game 4. Rather than spilling a bunch of digital ink explaining his great defense-splitting move, I’ll just let you enjoy the footage in its jaw-dropping glory.
Yup, that’s pretty amazing. Kesler’s goal (and boisterous celebration) was the only truly captivating moment in this muck-and-grind Game 4. Let’s give you a quick rundown of how it all happened, though.
An “explosive” first period
Christian Ehrhoff‘s point shot gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead in the first period, although the biggest moment of interest revolved around Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne‘s angry reaction. Rinne thought that Alex Burrows interfered with him on that goal, but if you ask me, Burrows was far enough outside the crease that the goal was OK.
Joel Ward is becoming quite the success story in this year’s playoffs. He tied things up with less than minute left in the first period. To give you an idea of how tight this series has been, the opening frame’s two goals provided more offense than the three previous games’ first periods combined total of just one.
Predators don’t give up
Alexander Edler gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead through the second period, but the Predators have been a resilient group in this series. Cody Franson‘s point shot beat Roberto Luongo to make it 2-2 early in the third, even if the two teams’ non-reaction reminded many of the confusion surrounding Patrick Kane‘s 2010 Cup-winning goal.
That 2-2 tie set the stage for Kesler’s star-making moment. He forced a tired Ryan Suter to take a holding penalty and then scored that gorgeous goal. Henrik Sedin finally scored his first playoff goal on an empty net and also provided two assists, but the Sedin twins weren’t as effective as their improved stats would indicate in this game.
Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise, though, as Kesler is carrying the mail himself.
Outlook for both teams
The Canucks must feel great about their 3-1 lead, but they better not take Game 5 lightly. They took their gas off the pedal in the first round and were an overtime period away from humiliation. Vancouver seems content to sit back on leads in individual games, too, so they need to avoid taking this situation for granted.
That’s especially true if the San Jose Sharks make short work of the Detroit Red Wings. A well-rested Sharks team would be a tough match for them anyway, but if Nashville forces an extra grinding game or two, it could be a big problem. The Sedin twins obviously need to get it going, as well.
The Predators cannot be happy right now, but they can find solace in how close these games have been. Chicago was close behind Vancouver and broke through when the Canucks relaxed. Obviously it wasn’t enough to win that series, but if Barry Trotz needs to find a light at the end of the tunnel, that might be it.
Perhaps Nashville could steal Game 5 and then see how it goes? We’ll find out Saturday night on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.
Oct 22, 2014, 1:11 AM EDT
Had the lead going into the third period.
Oct 22, 2014, 12:35 AM EDT
Do a little dance. Make some big saves. Shut out tonight.
Oct 21, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Toronto took this one over in the second period.
Oct 21, 2014, 11:28 PM EDT
Is a call from the league next?
Oct 21, 2014, 10:54 PM EDT
David Desharnais with his first of the season.
Oct 21, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT
No call on that play.
Oct 21, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
It’s gone from bad to worse for Vancouver.
Oct 21, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
Happened on an innocent enough play.
Oct 21, 2014, 9:29 PM EDT
Outplayed Philly big time in first period.
Oct 21, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT
Bet that felt good.
Oct 21, 2014, 8:27 PM EDT
Thought to be in against Chicago, but no.
Oct 21, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
NHL Insider analyzes what the future has in store for the L.A. defenseman.
Oct 21, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT
Check it out via the NBC Live Extra stream.
Oct 21, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
“Nathan is a frustrated kid right now. He’s in constant pain.”
Oct 21, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT
After watching the first five games of the season from the press box.
Oct 21, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
‘Canes the only winless team in the league.
Oct 21, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
For example, a really tough upcoming schedule. (But also goaltending and that defense.)
Oct 21, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT
“It’s adversity for us but we’re going to come through it,” says Jarrett Stoll.
Oct 21, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
News and notes from around the blue paint…
Oct 21, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re behind what the league has done.”
- Video: Raanta shuts out flat Flyers in emergency start 0
- Video: Flyers’ Jones lays out Smith, called for charging 4
- Video: Islanders’ Hickey cut after taking a skate to the face 1
- (Video) McKenzie: NHLPA ‘entirely on board’ with Voynov suspension 6
- If allegations are true, will Kings welcome Voynov back into their ‘special’ group? 32
- Rutherford on Fleury: ‘As long as I’m the GM, he’ll be our goalie’ 15
- Datsyuk will play tonight in Montreal 4
- NHL on NBCSN: Flyers take on ‘Hawks in Chicago 9
- Jets’ Maurice apologizes for using the F-bomb at a reporter 30
- Video: Oilers win…? Oilers win! 3
- Source: Lucic fined $5k for gesture vs. Habs (Confirmed) (121)
- Updated: Kings’ Voynov arrested for domestic assault, suspended indefinitely (78)
- Video: Bruins’ Lucic gestures to Habs fans after late penalty (59)
- ‘It’s stupid': Tempers flare after Kesler’s late charge on Granlund (54)
- Lucic apologizes for obscene gesture: ‘I’m obviously not proud of what I did there’ (45)