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.
May 28, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT
The former led Canada to gold at the most recent World Junior tourney.
May 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
May 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
Both forwards are New Jersey draft picks.
May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
His contract will expire after 2015-16.
May 28, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT
Thursday’s collection of links.
May 27, 2015, 11:47 PM EDT
He wasn’t the only Anaheim player that deserved to be blamed tonight.
May 27, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Chicago endured Anaheim’s comeback attempt to win this one.
May 27, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
The Ducks might have caught a break there.
May 27, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT
He has seven goals in 15 playoff games.
May 27, 2015, 9:46 PM EDT
Chicago scored three goals within four minutes.
May 27, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT
Jordan Weal has been a big part of Manchester’s success.
May 27, 2015, 8:09 PM EDT
Chicago’s mixing things up for this must-win game.
May 27, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
She’s previously been warned that this course could lead to her being found in contempt.
May 27, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT
Anaheim has a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight.
May 27, 2015, 5:24 PM EDT
After just one year in Pittsburgh.
May 27, 2015, 4:43 PM EDT
The ladies sure loved that guy.
May 27, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
One of the many decisions facing new GM Don Sweeney.
May 27, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final goes Friday at MSG.
May 27, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
The two men worked together for a season in New Jersey.
May 27, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Tomas Fleischmann likely on his way out.
- Caps’ Backstrom undergoes arthroscopic hip surgery 2
- Report: Sens’ Murray to retire after next season 0
- Of course: ‘Hawks, Ducks’ back-and-forth series is going to Game 7 42
- WATCH LIVE: Ducks at Blackhawks, Western Conference Final Game 6 1
- As Bolts deal with illness, extra day of rest could prove beneficial 11
- Sounds like it’s Rundblad, not TVR, in for Chicago on defense 17
- On Kreider, and trying ‘to turn the other cheek’ 48
- Report: Sharks to name DeBoer head coach 17
- Video: Lundqvist helps lead Rangers back to New York for Game 7 6
- Lightning get taken to ‘school of hard knocks’ in third-period collapse 11
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (75)
- What’s wrong with Lundqvist? (70)
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks (66)
- Fetisov wants to restrict young Russians from playing in the NHL (53)
- Babcock wants to ‘put Canada’s team back on the map’ (49)