Big story: On their sixth try, the Predators finally broke through and made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Canucks are bidding to make their stay in the conference semifinals a short one. After the teams split a pair of one-goal games in Vancouver, the Canucks swept Games 3 and 4 in Nashville and stand poised to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1994 if they can prevail Saturday. Of course, they almost let a 3-0 lead slip away against the Blackhawks in the first round and the Predators have played them tight this entire series, so hopes of a comeback are legitimate.
Predators: With the exception of a span of just under 11 minutes in Game 3, Nashville never held the lead in the last two games at Bridgestone Arena. As it stands, that was the only point in the series where the Predators have played up a goal -- they trailed Game 2 until the final minutes before tying the score and eventually winning in double overtime. They rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits Thursday on scores by Joel Ward and Cody Franson, but an ill-timed penalty by Ryan Suter led to the second game-deciding power-play goal in three nights by Ryan Kesler. Now the Predators face their first elimination game in this year's playoff run.
"I could give you coach talk and say we're never out of it, but I've seen it all year. I've seen it when our backs are against the wall. I've seen it in the playoffs," coach Barry Trotz said. "As our coaching staff calls it, we've been on death's door a couple of times. In the Anaheim series we were there (in Game 5) and found a way to come back and win. In Vancouver we were there (in Game 2). We find ways.
"We dug ourselves a hole, but we've been in a few holes this year."
Canucks: You don't win the Presidents' Trophy without having a deep and talented roster, and Vancouver is showing off its depth and secondary scoring over their first 11 games of the playoffs. Kesler was held without a goal in the first round, but players like Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows picked him up. Nashville has done a strong job holding the Sedins in check during this series, but now Kesler has heated up with three goals in two games. The Canucks also got a pair of goals from their defense on Thursday, as Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler each scored. Ehrhoff also had a pair of assists and his 9 points lead blueliners in playoff scoring.
"Today we chipped in from the back end and that's what we need," Ehrhoff told the Vancouver Sun. "Different guys have to step up in different games and tonight we stepped up from the back end."
Who's hot:Henrik Sedin, Ehrhoff and Kesler all finished with 1 goal and 2 assists in the Canucks' latest victory. Kesler leads them in playoff scoring with 11 points. Sedin's goal, into an empty net, was his first of the postseason, but he also has 7 assists. … Ward had a multi-point night for the Predators, assisting on Franson's goal, to give him 2 goals and 2 assists over his last three games and a team-leading 9 points in the playoffs.
Injury report: Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo returned to the lineup Thursday after missing the previous four games dating back to the first round with an undisclosed injury. … Nashville lost forward Jerred Smithson to an upper-body injury in Game 4 that has him day-to-day. Forward Steve Sullivan was out of action after sustaining a lower-body injury in Game 3 and his return in this series is questionable.
Stat pack:Henrik Sedin's goal with 20.8 seconds left in Game 4 gave the Canucks the first two-goal lead either team has enjoyed in the series. … The Predators achieved a pair of firsts against the Ducks in the opening round with the franchise's first Game 5 win, which also happened to be its first overtime victory. Now the Preds will aim for their first victory in an elimination game -- they're 0-5 all-time in such instances.
Puck drop: Vancouver was an overtime goal by Chicago away from becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a series it once led 3-0, and the players understand the importance of not letting this series get back to Nashville for a Game 6 on Monday.
"We learned a lot from that series, we've even learned some from this series," Kesler said. "It's going to be the hardest working team that always wins and we've got to get our work boots on and we've got to close this thing out on Saturday."