By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators trail the Vancouver Canucks 3 -1 in their Western Conference Semi Finals after they lost 4-2 on Thursday night. Ryan Kesler scored the game winning goal on the power play 7:28 into the third period.
Predators Captain Shea Weber says that the series isn’t over just yet. “You know what? We’re a resilient group in here. It’s a tough position to put ourselves in, but it’s definitely not over by any means,” he said.
The atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena was electric as chants of ‘Let’s go Preds’ rang out while the introduction video played on the jumbotron. Once play began, the Predators fed off the energy of the crowd and started fast, but were unable to beat Luongo, or even record any shots on goal.
The first penalty of the game went to the Predators. Kevin Klein was sent to the box for cross checking at 4:01 into the game. The penalty was killed off with the help of Nick Spaling. With Rinne out of position, Spaling blocked a shot that was right on target to go in the empty net, keeping the game scoreless.
Just seven minutes into the game shots were only 2-1 in favor of Vancouver, but the play went end to end.
Despite getting some early chances, play settled down and the Canucks took over control of the game outshooting Nashville 11-6 in the first period. However, at the end of 20 minutes, the game was tied up at one goal apiece.
The Canucks opened scoring with just 4:56 left in the opening frame. Christian Ehrhoff’s shot from the point beat Predators netminder Pekka Rinne — who did not look happy with the goal as Canucks pest Alex Burrows made contact with the netminder which may have hindered his ability to make the save.
The goal was Ehrhoff’s second of the playoffs. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin picked up the assists.
Rinne says that the team still has some fight left in them. “I think we are showing a lot of character playing tight games against these guys. They have a good team, but we just have to have that one extra gear in our locker room and bounce back.”
Nashville tied the game with 41.6 seconds to play. With Sami Salo in the penalty box for delay of game, Joel Ward picked up his fifth goal of the post season. Cody Franson shot the puck from the point. Ward picked up the rebound directly in front of Luongo and put the puck passed the Canadian Olympian netminder. Martin Erat picked up the other assist.
The goal gives Joel Ward the franchise record in points during one playoff season with 9 points (5 goals and 4 assists) in 10 games.
At the end of the first period tensions mounted and then exploded as Nick Spaling punched Burrows in the face and then Jordin Tootoo punch Dan Hamhuis in the face. Jerred Smithson also ended up an upper body injury did not return to the game. Smithson is doubtful for Saturday’s game in Vancouver.
The Canucks took a 2-1 lead mid-way through the middle frame when Alex Edler ripped a bullet from the point passed traffic and back of Rinne’s net.
The goal came on Vancouver’s 19th shot of the game. The Predators were stuck at 7 shots on the goal.
The Predators had their opportunities to find the equalizer, none better than having 47 seconds of a 5 on 3 man advantage. Nashville was unable to capitalize with Maxim Lapierre in the box for interference and Aaron Rome sitting for slashing.
At the end of two periods of play, the Predators had 13 shots on goal to the Canucks 21 shots.
Nashville tied things early in the third period when Cody Franson’s shot from the point beat Luongo. Legwand and Ward picked up the assists. It was Franson’s first goal of the post season.
With the game tied at 2, Nashville gave Vancouver a power play opportunity with 13:39 left in regulation when Ryan Suter pulled Kesler down in violent fashion in front of Rinne. Suter was called for holding.
After drawing the penalty, Kesler scored his third goal of the post season, all power play markers, with 12:32 left on the clock.
Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault said that the Predators had no busy complaining about the play of his players after Thursday night’s game. “I hope they’re not going to complain about embellishment tonight with the number of things that happened out there on the ice. Suter having the audacity to complain after he takes that penalty and just hauls Ryan Kesler down to the ice was utterly amazing. Our guys battled thought; they did what they had to do to do a good job with or without the puck,” he said.
Through the first four games, the Canucks have shut down Fisher, Hornqvist, Weber, Tootoo, Smithson, and Kostitsyn – all of whom have not registered a point in the series.
Nashville was unable to tie the game and the Canucks added an empty net goal to win the contest 4-2. Game five, Saturday night at 8pm, is in Vancouver.
Photo Credit: AP
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