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Preds force Game 6 with 4-3 win

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- They talk all the time about being resilient, about buying in to the team philosophy and playing what coach Barry Trotz continually calls Predators' hockey.

Nashville will have another home game this season because it did all of that Saturday night in Vancouver.

Joel Ward scored twice in the third period, David Legwand also had pair of goals earlier in the game and Pekka Rinne made 31 saves to help the Predators stave off elimination with a 4-3 victory at Rogers Arena. Game 6 is set for Monday night at Bridgestone Arena.

"I didn't want us to play on our heels," Trotz said. "If we are going to get back in the series, let's go for it. Let's go for it. Our guys responded."

Ward in particular had a monster night, easily his most memorable since making it to the NHL with the Minnesota Wild in 2006-07. He gave the Predators a 3-2 lead just 74 seconds into the third period on a one-timer off a feed from Mike Fisher, and then gave Nashville its first two-goal lead of the series four and a half minutes later off a tipped pass from Jordin Tootoo.

Ryan Kesler scored his second goal of the night and fifth of the series with 3:43 to play to make things interesting in the waning moments, but Rinne made six saves and Nashville blocked two more shots in the final three minutes to preserve the win and perhaps plant a seed of doubt in the Canucks' minds.

Vancouver has failed on its last four attempts to wrap up a series in five games. The last time it did was in 1994, when the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canucks, of course, had a 3-0 lead in the last series against Chicago only to have it go into overtime of Game 7 before they finally could close out the Blackhawks. They insist things will be different this time around.

"We're playing a lot better now," said Daniel Sedin, who was a minus-4 and combined with his brother was a minus-7 in Game 5. "As a team, I thought we played good (Saturday). They didn't have a lot of chances, but the ones they had were clean ones. Sharpen that up, we'll be fine."

Sure, they might be, but what does it say that the Sedins are now being outscored in the playoffs by Joel Ward, 7-6.

Ward, who had 10 goals in the regular season, is tied with Sean Bergenheim, Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk for the League lead in the 2011 postseason. The Sedins are a combined minus-14 in 12 playoff games.

"A lot of people in hockey pools are not too happy," Ward joked. "I just want to win. Bottom line. I'm not too worried. I just try to contribute."

He did in a huge way Saturday, but it all started with a smart play by Fisher, who hadn't recorded a point in the series until he assisted on Ward's go-ahead goal early in the third period.

Fisher intercepted Kevin Bieksa's clearing attempt at the right point, then faked as if he was shooting but instead fed a hard circle-to-circle pass across to Ward for a one-timer from the left side that beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (19 saves).

"He sold the shot, passed it hard across and it was a great finish by Wardo," Trotz said. "There were a lot of good things that happened for us tonight."

Such as Ward's second goal. Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler whiffed on his attempt to clear the puck out of the slot, so Tootoo got a piece of it to chip it over to Ward, who came out of the corner and rifled home a shot from the left circle.

With Kesler scoring late, that one turned into the game-winner.

"He's been great this series. He's been our best player in this series," Rinne said of Ward, who also had goals in Games 3 and 4 and is on a four-game point streak. "It's great to see. He works hard. He is just a great team guy and typical kind of Predators' player. He's getting rewarded for being a tough guy to play against. He always plays against the top lines and now he's contributing offensively."

Ward nearly had a hat trick with just under eight minutes left, but Luongo stoned him on a shorthanded breakaway.

"I fanned on it," Ward said. "It would have been nice to get it. I would have been a little upset if they came back, but again it was a relief we ended up winning the game."

Part of the reason why they did is the Predators finally got the break they have so desperately needed. Unfortunately for the Canucks, Edler was involved this time, too, but it was only part of his all-around rough night.

Just 51 seconds into the second period, Legwand flipped the puck over the Canucks' net and Edler inadvertently punched it past Luongo to tie the game up at 2-2. The goal seemed to fire up the Predators and it most definitely changed the momentum of the game.

They were down 2-1 and being outshot 11-2 when Kesler scored 15:06 into the third period, but the shots were even in the second period and the score remained 2-2 after 40 minutes.

"Our backs were against the wall, so we talked about one game and we're going to talk about one game again," Trotz said. "It was a great character test for everybody. This team is exactly what I told you, they are resilient and a great group to work with day in and day out. We are not perfect, but we do come to play."

And they will again Monday.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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