May 8, 2011, 12:04 AM EDT
Going into Game 5, Ryan Kesler was the star and villain of this series. The Vancouver Canucks’ two-way center was outstanding again tonight, but he was forced to make room for a rival star. Nashville Predators forward Joel Ward stole the spotlight to help his team earn its first ever win while facing elimination.
Nashville 4, Vancouver 3; Canucks lead series 3-2
It makes sense that this game followed this series’ pattern of close games. It doesn’t make as much sense that possibly the best line from the regular season is getting torn apart by a group of little-known grinders, though.
The Predators are now 1-5 in franchise history when facing elimination, while the Canucks are 1-4 in elimination games in 2011.
An unexpectedly exciting first period
In a series full of drab opening frames, this game started off with a bang and rarely slowed down.
Things looked grim for Nashville when they took an early penalty, but Mikael Samuelsson* ended up making a boneheaded mistake. He turned the puck over to Ward, who sent a gorgeous pass to Legwand for a gorgeous shorthanded 1-0 tally. That man advantage wasn’t a total disaster for Vancouver, though, as Raffi Torres took advantage of a great takeaway and pass by Jannik Hansen to tie it up moments after the PP expired.
A strange goal leads in to the Ward-Kesler duel
The Predators have scored quite a few weird goals from behind Roberto Luongo‘s net, but Legwand’s tying goal might just be the strangest. Let’s just say it wasn’t a great night for Alex Edler. (Note: Highlights of Nashville goals can be found at the bottom of this post.)
The game remained 2-2 going into the third period, which put a huge exclamation point on Ward’s amazing playoff run. The pending free agent finished a beautiful one-timer pass from Fisher to make it 3-2. Ward then he pounced on a turnover to slam home the eventual game-winning goal.
Ward almost made it a three-goal lead when he out-skated Edler for a shorthanded goal attempt, but Luongo made the save to deny his natural hat trick attempt. Ward’s three-point night ties him for second place in the 2011 playoffs with 12 points. His seven goals is unexpected after he only scored 10 during the regular season.
Kesler continues to dominate, but couldn’t do it by himself tonight.
While Ward was the star of the night, Kesler is earning Mark Messier comparisons with his combination of grit and goal scoring prowess. He scored yet another goal with a little less than four minutes remaining in the game, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
Kesler ended the game with two goals, a ridiculous 21-5 record on faceoffs, six hits and plenty of hatred from Nashville. Ward had two goals, one assist, four hits and a +3 rating in Game 5.
A quick outlook for both teams
Nashville gets an opportunity to earn a second round win at home after dropping Games 3 and 4 in their own barn. They just need to stick with it and take advantage of the nothing-to-lose energy they’ll likely take into Game 6. Their support players are coming through while Pekka Rinne remains a difference maker.
Luongo still doesn’t deserve the blame (most of those goals were unstoppable), but the Sedin twins deserve plenty of criticism for their flop tonight. Ward’s line absolutely devoured them in Game 5, leaving Daniel (-4 rating) and Henrik (-3) looking like the nobodies in this contest. The Canucks might not need them to be outright stars, but now they’re getting flat-out embarrassed.
The Canucks now must take another 12 hour flight to Nashville and play at least 60 more grinding minutes against the Predators. Even if they win in Game 6, this was a loss that could haunt them in the near future.
* – Versus reports that Samuelsson won’t travel with the Canucks to Nashville because of a lower-body injury.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
He was a fourth-round pick by them in 2007.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:05 PM EDT
He’s a free agent after next season,
Aug 1, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
He had 17 points for Calgary last season.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT
No real surprise, right?
Aug 1, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
His stats and Stanley Cup victories have us perplexed.
Aug 1, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
He’s gunning to make an impression on L.A.’s blue line corps.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:58 PM EDT
Teemu forever and ever and ever.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
He’s win the Cup twice and has two Olympic gold medals, but he hasn’t captured the Norris Trophy yet.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
Montreal and the defenseman can still negotiate until the ruling, but no talks are scheduled.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
They’re trying to re-sign both of them this summer.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT
They averaged 3.38 goals per game in the postseason.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT
They still might avoid the ruling though.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT
Sunny Mehta wrote two books on the card game, but he’s turned his attention to advanced statistics in sports.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
His relationship with Panthers GM Dale Tallon made a big difference.
Aug 1, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Will Los Angeles regret opting against a buyout?
Aug 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Taking a look at the 2014 champions on Friday.
Jul 31, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Lou Lamoriello says those SO struggles are “not a focus.”
Jul 31, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
“It will help me down the road.”
Jul 31, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Have fun making up captions with this one.
Jul 31, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
The team estimates he’ll miss two weeks of on-ice training.
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- Flyers’ Mason broke his right pinky finger playing ball hockey 23
- Lindros, LeClair and Desjardins to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame 64
- It’s back! PHT’s Team of the Day summer series starts tomorrow 9
- Pens sign Spaling — two years, $4.4 million 13
- Agent: Subban hasn’t told me to make him NHL’s highest-paid D 32
- Devils sign Greene to five-year, $25M extension 18
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million 47
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ 59
- Gettin’ paid: Gardiner inks five-year, $20.25M extension with Leafs 15
- Lindros, LeClair and Desjardins to be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame (64)
- Cashing in: Rangers sign Brassard to five-year, $25 million deal (63)
- Marchand on Plekanec: ‘I hate him. I can’t stand him’ (59)
- Poll: Is Drew Doughty the best defenseman in the world? (58)
- Subban seeking $8.5 million in arbitration, versus the Habs at $5.25 million (47)