In Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinal, Kesler was again Vancouver’s best player scoring two goals, alongside a team-high six hits, while winning 21-of-26 faceoffs, but it wasn’t enough.
The Canucks fell to the Nashville Predators 4-3 Saturday night thanks to a career-high three points from Joel Ward; Vancouver leads the best-of-seven series 3-2 with Game 6 scheduled for Monday night in Nashville.
In the Predators locker room at Rogers Arena there’s a poster of a pair of Everlast boxing gloves with the caption “Everything is possible."
Facing elimination, they proved it.
Nashville opened the scoring with its first shot on goal, shorthanded, in the first period and despite trailing 2-1 after the opening frame thanks to Vancouver goals from Raffi Torres and Ryan Kesler, the Predators opened the second by scoring on their first shot.
With the teams even at 2-2 to start the third, you guessed it, the Predators scored on their first shot on goal. Again. Again, again, actually. That made it a 3-2 game and just over four minutes later Nashville doubled its lead to hold a two-goal advantage for the first time all series.
Kesler made it 4-3 with 3:46 to remaining in regulation, but overtime wasn’t in the cards.
From dreading overtime to craving it, this has been a wild series, one that will go at least one more game.
The Canucks, who won both Games 3 and 4 in Nashville, remain confident that if they bring the same effort in Game 6, they can wrap up the series.
"We like our chances in Nashville,” said Henrik Sedin, who hit Pekka Rinne with three shots.
"It was one of those games, we battled hard and maybe if you look at the game, we should have won it. But this is playoffs and we’ve got to go back to Nashville and we've done a good job in their building and we got to play the same way."
The Sedins were held off the scoresheet for the third time this series, despite playing one of their best games. They tormented the Predators in their own end for stretches and just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Daniel and Henrik have combined for one goal against Nashville.
“We need to be better,” said Daniel. “I thought offensively we played pretty well, we had a lot more time in their end and we need to score on our chances. Same old story.”
It was the same old story for the Canucks in a series clinching game as well. They are now 1-4 this post-season when trying to eliminate the opposition. According to Roberto Luongo, they have only themselves to blame for that on this night.
"I don't think they did anything special tonight,” said Luongo, who allowed more than two goals for the first time in eight consecutive starts.
“Whatever they got, we gave them. They didn't really have anything extra. We dominated parts of the game and made some mistakes and they scored."
"What are you going to do? It's hockey,” Luongo added. “You move on, you can't dwell on it because there's an important game coming up two days from now."
The Canucks will be without forward Mikael Samuelsson for Game 6, he suffered a lower body injury in the first period and is day-to-day. He will not travel to Nashville Sunday.
Alain Vigneault, on if he was surprised at the number of mistakes from his club…
“I thought we came out real strong, we had a lot of energy, unfortunately on their first goal it was a costly turnover, but for the most part I like the way we played in the first. Again, they got their second goal with a type of goal you don’t see too often, but we spent a lot of time in their end, we battled real hard in that second period and obviously in the third, it’s a game of mistakes. We made two and they made us pay for it. Unfortunately we couldn’t capitalize or make them pay when they made mistakes, but that’s part of the game.”
On going back to Nashville for Game 6…
“This is a hard-fought series, this is a good team, they’ve got a lot of players battling hard and we’ve got a lot of players battling really hard. Tonight, unfortunately, we made a couple of mistakes that cost us real bad and we’ve got to turn the page, fly to Nashville, and get ready for Game 6.”
On who needs to play better to close out the series on Monday…
“I expect our whole group to be better, obviously there’s a couple of our players that need to be better and we’ll address that tomorrow with them.”
Vancouver has allowed three shorthanded goals in the playoffs, the Canucks only gave up two all regular season; the Canucks were looking to close out two consecutive series on home ice for the firs time since the 1994 playoffs; Nashville came into Game 5 0-5 lifetime when facing elimination.