Facing elimination, the Nashville Predators held off the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 to send the series back to Nashville for a game 6 confrontation. Vancouver leads the series 3-2, with game 6 to be played Monday in Nashville.
This win was nothing but a character win for the Predators. Facing elimination, where they had been 0 for forever, the Predators fought and scrapped and came away with a gritty win over the Canucks.
This game was a war of attrition, as the Canucks lost Mikael Samuelson to an lower body injury and the Predators lost Nick Spaling after he was boarded. Oh guess what- no call on the boarding. Ryan Kessler took a puck to the face and required some stitches before returning to the contest..
It was a war, and the team with the biggest heart and the most grit was going to come out on top.
That team would be the Predators.
In the first period, the Canucks had all the jump and energy. They outshot the Predators by a 12-5 margin, and the Predators looked nothing like a team that was fighting for their playoff lives.
The Predators started well. With Sergei Kostitsyn in the box for another weak holding the stick call, Joel Ward slipped the puck to David Legwand, who broke in alone on Roberto Luongo and beat him to the blocker side with a snap shot at 3:42 of the first period.
The Canucks would even the contest at 5:59 of the first as Raffi Torres would be the beneficiary of a bouncing puck that eluded the Predators defense. Jannik Hansen was able to gather in the puck and slip it to Torres, who was all alone and beat Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne just inside the post.
Ryan Kessler would extend the Canucks lead to 2-1 as he took a lead pass from Mason Raymond and beat Shea Weber to the net. Kessler would slide the puck over the pad of Rinne on a beautiful goal at 15:06.
The Predators appeared as if they would tie the game as the puck slid over to Sergei Kostitsyn and he had a yawning open net into which to shoot the puck. Maxim Lapierre dove across and just got his stick on the puck to deflect it wide of the net.
Down 2-1 at the end of one period, it remained to see how the Predators would respond.
They responded very well.
The Predators opened the second period skating very well and generating numerous chances in the offensive zone. Although they could not get a puck past Luongo, there were several good scoring chances for the Predators.
The Predators would tie the game on what can only be called one of the strangest goals of the playoffs. David Legwand had the puck behind the net and flipped it over the top of the net. The puck hit Alexander Edler in the leg and caromed past a surprised Luongo to tie the game just 51 seconds into the second period.
Hey, they all count. No one grades them on style points.
The Predators sates much better throughout the second period and created some opportunities, but could not solve Luongo. At the other end of the ice, Rinne made some great saves, occasionally channeling his inner Dominick Hasek to make some saves. Because of the play of the netminders, neither team could find the twine for the remainder of the period.
One period. Twenty minutes to decide your fate and your season. How would the Predators respond?
Enter Joel Ward.
There are moments in a game when a player takes a team on his back and carries them. This was Joel Ward's moment.
Wardo took a nice cross ice feed from Mike Fisher just 1:14 into the third period and rifled a shot top shelf that beat Luongo blocker side.
Ward wasn't done, however, as he tallied again at 5:45 of the period off an assist from Jordin Tootoo. Ward ripped a shot that beat Luongo glove side to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.
This is the Canucks, and they weren't going to go away quietly. Ryan Kessler got his second of the game at at 16:14 of the third. Kessler decided to skate by the Predators bench and mock the team after his goal.
That will be remembered.
The Predators held the Canucks off the board for the remainder of the third period and skated out of Vancouver with an improbable win.
Who ya mocking now, Kessler?
The Predators have now forced a game 6 back on their home ice. It's time for the Predators to defend their home ice and force a game 7.
Do that, and the pucker factor for the Cancuks will be so high you couldn't pull a greased nail out of their ass with a tractor.
The Predators showed a lot of character and grit in tonight's win. It would have been easy to fold up on the Canucks home ice, easy to fold under the weight of never having won an elimination game, easy to succumb to the energy of the fans in Vancouver.
Now it is time to play one game. Just one.
Come back to your barn and play like there is no tomorrow.
Because there isn't.
Every shift, every puck battle, is all out. Nothing is left behind in this one, boys. It is all out for 60 minutes.
Do that, and you will have an opportunity to play one more game.