By Amanda DiPaolo
For the first time in franchise history, the Predators won an elimination game when a loss by Nashville would mean an early summer. The Predators had been in this position five previous times, always coming up short on home ice. With the win on Saturday night, Nashville forces a game 6 at Bridgestone Arena.
After the game 4 loss, Head Coach Barry Trotz said that to win the Predators would probably need their back end to step up, meaning more spectacular play from Pekka Rinne, as well as first defensive pairing Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. But Saturday night, it was Joel Ward and David Legwand who lifted Nashville to victory.
The Predators got on the board early when Legwand scored his second short-handed goal of the series just 3:42 into the opening frame. Joel Ward stole the puck from both Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Sedin in the Predators defensive end at the Blue line, passed the puck to Legwand sending him all alone on a breakaway.
Legwand beat Luongo but the lead was a short one as the Canucks evened things up under three minutes later.
Jannik Hansen skated in on Rinne, drew the netminder over to him and then sent a drop pass cross ice to the stick of Raffi Torres who shot the puck into an empty net at 5:59 of the first period, though Rinne did make a diving save in an attempt to get back in place. It was the first goal of the post season for Torres. Dan Hamhuis also picked up an assist.
Kesler put the Canucks up 2-1 with 5 minutes left in the first period when he broke in on a 2-on-1 with Mason Raymond.
In the second period, Legwand tied things up just 51 seconds into the middle frame when he shot the puck from behind the net out front, over the net. The puck bounced off Alexander Edler and beat Luongo. The goal was awarded to Legwand and was unassisted.
The Edler goal wasn’t the only time the Canucks had a tough time from their own back end. The Predators almost took a 3-2 lead when Dan Hamhuis accidentally sent the puck on his own goal, forcing Luongo to make an unexpected save later the second period.
The Predators went into the third period tied at 2, but the game didn’t stay that way for long. Ward scored twice in less than five minutes to give Nashville a 4-2 lead, the first two goal lead of the series that did not involve an empty net goal.
Ward picked up his sixth goal of the playoffs when he scored 1:14 into the final frame. Mike Fisher assisted when he sent Ward the cross-ice feed that Ward one-timed past Luongo, stick side.
Ward scored again minutes later at 5:45 into the third when Elder coughed up the puck and Ward beat the netminder high, glove side on a tip-in from a Jordin Tootoo shot. Despite having only scored 10 goals during the regular season, the goal was Ward’s 7th of the post season.
The Canucks made a game of it when Kesler picked up his second goal of the night, 5th of the playoffs (all against Nashville). Kesler’s shot from the point beat Rinne with only 3:46 remaining on the clock. The Canucks were unable to find the equalizer before time ran out.
Now, the Predators try to maintain momentum and avoid elimination in game 6 on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. The puck drops at 7 pm CT.
Additional Game Notes
Ward has seven goals which is tied for the lead in the playoffs so far. With 12 points, Ward now owns the Predators playoffs record for points total.
Nashville was again outshot by the Canucks 34-23 shots on goal.
Nick Spaling left the game after Sami Salo crushed him into the boards late in the second period. He returned late in the third period.
Mikael Samuelsson will not be traveling with the team to Nashville for Monday night’s game after he fell funny when Spaling had earlier gotten tangled with the former Detroit Red Wing.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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