In another low-scoring affair, Vancouver found a way to come out on top in Nashville in Tuesday’s Game 3. The Canucks took a 2-1 series lead with their 3-2 overtime win behind Ryan Kesler’s three points, including the game-winner on the power play.
Kesler and company ended the game with a 47-30 shot advantage and outplayed the Preds most of the way. Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo continued their great goaltending duel, but Luongo got the upper hand in this one.
Nashville struggled to generate much offense, but made things interesting in the end and missed on some chances in overtime. In the end, they couldn’t pull out a win in their first game ever played in May.
The Predators had to stave off an early surge from Vancouver, who took a 10-1 shot advantage halfway through the first period. While shorthanded, David Legwand one-timed the game’s opening goal past Roberto Luongo at 10:18. The goal occurred during a delayed penalty for Vancouver, and Ryan Suter found a wide-open Legwand back-door.
“Sutes made a great play coming down the wall,” Legwand said, “and I was just coming across the net. He made a great play there.”
Of the seven games they’ve played this season, this was the first time one of the teams scored in the opening 20 minutes. Throughout the opening frame, the Preds missed some quality chances, including Steve Sullivan’s breakaway that was stopped by Luongo.
Early on in the second period, Ryan Kesler scored his first goal of the playoffs to tie the game at one apiece on the power play. It was Vancouver’s first power play tally of the series. Kesler tapped home a Christian Ehrhoff feed inside the crease as Pekka Rinne was out of position.
It took over 15 minutes for the Preds to record their first shot of the period. They ended the frame with four shots following a late chance on the power play.
“They were beating us to loose pucks,” Trotz said. “We didn’t have any support. It started with not being real strong in the neutral zone and our decisions at the blueline were suspect.
“We were trying to be too cute.”
The Canucks carried that momentum over to the third period as Chris Higgins put Vancouver on top 2-1. His goal at 3:03 came off a scramble where Rinne was out of his net. Higgins’ shot from the half-boards found its way into the unguarded net.
“I kind of poke-checked the puck (from Higgins),” Rinne said, “Kesler kind of slid into me. I saw (Higgins) shooting and tried to jump in front. I didn’t really see the puck.”
The defense of Vancouver seemed to have things under control in the third, but Joel Ward tied the game at 13:18 as his wrap-around attempt trickled through traffic and past Luongo.
“I knew (Luongo) was going to try to hug the post,” Ward said, “so I tried to go to the far side. I tried a little wrap and was fortunate to have it go in.”
Nashville carried the play after Ward’s goal, but it wasn’t enough, which sent it to overtime for the second straight game. And for the second straight game, things opened up in the extra frame. Both teams traded chances for the first 10 minutes.
However, the game turned on a borderline hooking call on Shea Weber. Kesler sold the call to give the Canucks a power play, much to the dismay of the home crowd. Legwand wasn’t too happy with the call by official Tim Peel.
“Kesler’s holding onto the stick,” said Legwand. “That’s a pretty touchy call for overtime, I think.”
“I think they called a good playoff style hockey game,” Weber said of the officiating. “It’s unfortunate that a call like that cost us the game.”
Vancouver capitalized on the opportunity and made the call look even worse when Kesler deflected Mikael Samuelsson’s wrist shot through the five-hole of Rinne just 40 seconds into the power play.
“It just came behind traffic and found a way to the net,” Rinne said. “There were probably a few questionable calls tonight, and it cost us. But it’s a game – it’s hockey. It’s a fast game. Things happen so fast so it’s just part of the game.”
The goal gave the Canucks their second win of the series; it was Nashville’s first overtime loss of the postseason.
Special teams have not been kind to the Predators in this series. They have been shut out on 12 attempts on the man advantage, while Vancouver’s power play scored twice tonight.
“Our power play and penalty kill,” Rinne said, “it’s not at the level it should be at this point in the season.”
Nashville plays host to Vancouver on Thursday in a must-win Game 4.
“We’ve got to win Thursday night,” Legwand said. “We’ve got to come back and be ready to bounce back.”