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Canucks take second stab at closing out Predators

by Dan Rosen

(Canucks lead best-of-seven series, 3-2)


Big Story -- Nashville needs to beat the Canucks for the second straight time to force a Game 7 back in Vancouver on Wednesday. The Canucks are 1-4 in potential closeout games in the playoffs so they are hoping their killer instinct shows up at Bridgestone Arena and they can advance to their first Western Conference Finals since 1994. The Predators won their first elimination game in franchise history on Saturday at Rogers Arena, beating the Canucks, 4-3.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- Ryan Kesler continued his torrid streak with 2 goals in Saturday's loss. That gives him 5 goals and 9 points for the series, and 13 points in the playoffs, making him an early favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy. That, of course, can only happen if the Canucks advance, and to do so it's safe to assume they are going to need something out of the Sedin twins.

Henrik and Daniel were held without a point and finished a combined minus-7 in Game 5. Daniel was a minus-4. The twins are now minus-14 in the postseason.

"Minus-4 can't happen, so we need to be better," Daniel said after Saturday's loss. "I thought offensively we played pretty well, we had a lot more time in their end. We need to score on our chances -- same old story."

Vancouver is also hoping for a bounce back game from some of its blue-liners. Alex Edler had an rough night Saturday. He punched in one of the Predators' goals and his whiff on a clearing attempt directly led to the other goal. Kevin Bieksa's turnover led to Nashville's go-ahead goal early in the third period. Christian Ehrhoff was also minus-2.

"I don't think their goals were the result of our defensive play," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think most of their goals were the result of us managing the puck the wrong way."

Predators -- With a pair of goals in the third period Saturday, forward Joel Ward penned a few more paragraphs in what is fast becoming one of the most fascinating stories of this year's playoffs. Ward, who had 10 goals in 80 regular season games, has 7 goals in 11 playoff games and is tied for the League lead with Sean Bergenheim, Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk.

"He's played some pretty good games, but I don't know that he's played a better game in such a big game," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Ward, who also had an assist in the first period and has 12 points in the playoffs. "Joel was real strong for us going to the net and shooting the puck."

David Legwand also came to life with 2 goals, including one on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, to help the offense. Pekka Rinne continues to be the Predators best player as he made 31 saves. Mike Fisher got his first point of the series with an assist on Ward's first goal after he stole Bieksa's clearing attempt at the right point.

All around the Predators played a strong game in the face of elimination. They'll have to do it again Monday.

"It's one step, but we still got to win two more games and this is a good team," captain Shea Weber said. "They were the best team in the NHL during the regular season and they're not going to back down at all."

Who's Hot -- Ward has scored in three straight games, totaling 4 goals and he's on a four game point streak. Kesler has also scored in three straight games, totaling 5 goals.

Injury Report
-- Canucks forward Mikael Samuelsson suffered a lower body injury in Game 5 and is out for Game 6. Predators forward Jerrod Smithson missed Game 5 with an injury and is questionable for Game 6. Steve Sullivan remains out with a lower body injury.

Stat Pack -- Ward's 7 goals this postseason is one more than Henrik and Daniel Sedin have combined. Ward scored 10 goals in the regular season while the Sedins combined for 60. ... The Canucks have won three straight games at Bridgestone Arena. ... Vancouver won 47 of 76 faceoffs (62 percent) in Game 5. Kesler was 21 for 26 (81 percent).

Puck Drop -- "We're a resilient group," Trotz said. "One of the themes we had from Day One in Nashville is let's not make any excuses, and we don't make any excuses. And, we won't."
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