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Predators look to draw even again with Canucks

by Brian Hunter /

(Vancouver leads best-of-seven series, 2-1)

Big story:
Tuesday's Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal-round series produced the second straight overtime finish and the third consecutive one-goal decision between these teams. It was also the highest-scoring battle, as Vancouver became the first team in the series to put three pucks past the opposing goaltender in one game. In the end it was Ryan Kesler's second power-play goal of the night winning it for the Canucks at 10:45 of the first extra period, putting the Predators in a situation where they must respond and even the series Thursday or be faced with a 3-1 deficit heading back to British Columbia.
Team Scope:

Canucks: After rarely testing Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne during regulation in Game 2, Vancouver played more like it did in the opener on Tuesday, firing 47 shots on net. They also got Kesler in the goal column, finally -- he had a career-high 41 during the regular season, but had come up empty through the Canucks' first nine playoff games. Kesler tied the score early in the second period, set up Chris Higgins for the go-ahead goal in the third and, after Joel Ward's goal for the Predators forced overtime, drew a hooking call on Shea Weber before tipping a Mikael Samuelsson point shot on the ensuing power play for the winner.

"It was great," Kesler said. "It was good to get our play going again. It's not been struggling, but we haven't been scoring. It's good to get a couple and get the confidence back."
Predators: For the second time in three games, Nashville didn't have the start it wanted, as Vancouver took 10 of the first 11 shots in Game 3 but couldn't capitalize. The Predators then got on the board during a Canucks' man advantage, with David Legwand scoring the shorthanded goal. But Roberto Luongo would provide a stiff test for the remainder of the night, stopping 28 of 30 shots. Weber's overtime penalty predictably drew a partisan reaction -- while Kesler said Weber was indeed hooking him, Legwand called it a "pretty touchy call for overtime" and Barry Trotz simply said "it's a bad penalty." But the coach also found plenty of fault with Nashville's game.

"They were beating to us more pucks," Trotz said. "We weren't getting it deep and we didn't have any support, not being real strong in the neutral zone. Our decisions at the blue line were suspect. … We were trying to get too cute."

Who's hot: Luongo has a .958 save percentage for the series and has given up two goals or fewer in each of the four starts he's made since Canucks coach Alain Vigneault elected to start Cory Schneider over him in Game 6 against the Blackhawks. … Ward now leads the Predators in playoff scoring with 7 points and has been held off the score sheet just twice in nine games. Rinne has a .955 save percentage for the series.
Injury report: Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo missed Game 3 with a leg injury, while Nashville forward Steve Sullivan left with a lower-body injury, the severity of which tests on Wednesday were to determine.
Stat pack: The Canucks have certainly had their share of responsibility for the spate of playoff games going into overtime, as four of their last five dating back to Game 6 of the first round have needed at least one extra period to decide. … The Predators could use a boost from their power play, which went 0-for-3 in Game 3 and not only hasn't connected in this series but is 0-for-26 against the Canucks for the season, including their four regular-season matchups.
Puck drop:
Nashville has completely shut down the Sedins in this series -- Daniel has a solitary assist while Henrik is still searching for his first point. But Vancouver got contributions from up and down its second line in pulling out the Game 3 win. In addition to Kesler's pair of goals, Higgins scored for the second time in the series and Mason Raymond took six shots and had a plus-1 rating.

"I thought the whole line tonight was really strong," Vigneault said. "I think Chris Higgins played one of his best games since he's been with us. That whole line with Kesler, Mason and him, they had some quality chances. They competed real hard and that's what we expect from them."

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