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Kesler overcomes injury to score game-tying goal

by Dan Rosen /

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Ryan Kesler remembers going to the net, the puck hitting off his stick and then jumping about three feet in the air.

He didn't land in any pain.

"No, I'm good," Kesler said, smiling, soon after Kevin Bieksa scored the double-overtime winner to put the Canucks into the Stanley Cup Final with a 3-2 win against San Jose in Game 5 at Rogers Arena. "It didn't hurt."

It probably would have if Kesler could have felt anything but pure excitement and adrenaline after he scored the goal with 13.2 seconds left in regulation that helped salvage every party across British Columbia on Tuesday night.

Kesler left the game with about 11 minutes left in the second period with what appeared to be a significant lower body injury. He limped to the bench and seemed to be favoring his left leg as he was helped to the dressing room by a trainer.

About four minutes of game time later, Kesler was back on the bench. He tested his leg several times and looked like he wanted to hop over the boards during a penalty kill, but he was pulled back.

Kesler finally took a shift with 3:19 left in the second period. He didn’t miss another one, even though he was probably skating in pain.

"When you hurt yourself, and I don't know what happened -- he couldn't push -- but it's all about mind and will and your heart at this time of year," said forward Alex Burrows, who was on the ice when Kesler scored the dramatic goal that sent Game 5 to overtime. "I knew he was going to come back. He bounced back and scored a big goal for us."

Kesler was able to score the goal because he won an in-zone faceoff against Joe Thornton with 29 seconds left and dashed to the slot, where he established position. Henrik Sedin one-timed a pass from Alex Edler toward the net and Kesler got enough of the puck to change its trajectory and deflect it past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.

"Once you establish position they can't do much to box you out," Kesler said. "I was just hoping there would be a shot on net and Hank did a great job getting the puck through. I just got a stick on it, and went nuts."

The fact that Kesler was even out on the ice might have been a miracle. He definitely didn't look good when he went off, and the Canucks had to fear that he was gone for the night -- and maybe longer.

"The doctors took care of me and got me back out there quick," Kesler said, still smiling. "They did a good job, and it felt good to get that one."

"What he did was what a lot of our players are doing -- you got to play through things," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Even though I tell you every day that we're all a hundred percent, I mean, it's quite normal to say I might not be telling the whole truth."

Henrik Sedin mentioned how it important these next few days off before the Cup Final begins could be for Kesler. Remember, it was Henrik who was playing with some type of injury against Nashville, and the days off between the second and third round did wonders for him: He finished the Western Conference Finals with 12 points.

"To lose (Kesler), it makes it tougher for us to roll the lines," Sedin said. "To see him come back on the bench, I mean, he's a battler. He's going to do a good job when he's out there. Hopefully he's not too bad."

Kesler didn't look any worse for wear in either of the overtimes, and he certainly wasn't exhibiting any pain in the dressing room.

"Pure excitement," Kesler said.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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