Playoff Game of the Night

2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Game 3: Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators @ Bridgestone Arena
3-2 Final OT; Vancouver leads the series 2-1

After splitting the series in Vancouver, the Canucks and Predators landed in Music City the other day and some were welcomed more warmly than others.

The Predators and their fans planned to show the Canucks who had the loudest building in the NHL in Game 3, but who will be the beneficiary of the sound?

Doing some line-juggling again, Coach Vigneault put Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, and Chris Higgins together on a new line for high production and Alex Burrows was put back with the Sedin twins. The juggling paid off because in the first three minutes, the two top lines had several good scoring chances, but Pekka Rinne had some good saves equal to the chances.

After a little over 10 minutes of decent hockey from the Canucks, the visiting team were awarded a power-play. Just 40 seconds into that PP the goal light went off - for the Predators. Ryan Suter fed David Legwand from the face-off circle to the right of Roberto Luongo, and Legwand directs the feed towards the wide open net and in the puck went to put the Predators first on the board.

The second period (and the second Vancouver PP) didn't get off to the best of starts, but the first minute and the PP ended in a good mix of sorts. Ryan Kesler finally got his first goal of the post-season a perfect minute into the middle period. A pretty back-door play and a good-looking passing game between the top PP unit got Christian Ehrhoff and Daniel Sedin a point as Kesler just banked in Ehrhoff's pass while standing at the top of the blue and Rinne out of his net.

Following the trend of the scoring early in the period, the Canucks gain the lead 3:03 of the third period. After drawing the penalty (but on the delayed call), Chris Higgins gathered the puck after he had started the play. On his initial shot, Higgins didn't score but created a rebound. Kesler tried to go for it, but was hustled out of the possession. The loose puck sputtered out to the top of the left face-off circle, which Higgins gathered and shot towards the net for the go-ahead goal!

Despite the low-scoring (like the rest of this series), the tale of the tape was not seen on the score sheet. In the middle period, the Canucks defence kept the Predators from getting a shot on goal in the first 12-17 minutes, resulting in the hometeam getting only four shots in the second period. Nashville had good defensive efforts too! After two period, the home team faced twenty-four shots and stopped all but one. That looks a lot better than Luongo's eleven stopped shots after two.

After being awarded a pretty easy second period, Luongo was beat by a wrap-around attempt by Joel Ward. The face-off win by Martin Erat gave Ward the puck, and around the net he went. The wrap-around wouldn't have gone in if it hadn't hit the skate of Andrew Alberts, but that's just how it went.

Halfway through the first OT period, Nashville captain, Shea Weber, put his team on the man-disadvantage. Vancouver would make him pay as Kesler wants to avenge his name and shots. From no-goals prior to this game, Kesler got two tonight! On the PP, patience paid for perfect. Mikael Samuelsson made the wrister from the blue-line and the rubber soared through the air. Kesler got his stick on the shot and downwards it went and it squeaked in between Rinne's legs! Canucks win it in OT! I don't think Weber's beard is all too happy about that.

3 stars:
(1) Ryan Kesler
(2) Pekka Rinne
(3) Chris Higgins

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