Canucks ice Predators in OT, take 2-1 series lead

Ryan Kesler scored the overtime winner on the power play, leading the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night.

Kesler’s winning goal, his second of the game, was a tip-in of a Mikael Samuelsson point shot that came with Predators captain Shea Weber in the penalty box for hooking. Vancouver now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1.

The first-ever second round playoff home game in Predators franchise history was decided in dramatic fashion as Nashville and Vancouver went to sudden-death overtime for the second consecutive game.

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo made 28 saves while Predators netminder Pekka Rinne turned aside 44 shots in a valiant losing effort.

Aside from Kesler, Chris Higgins also scored for the Canucks. Christian Erhoff contributed two assists while Kesler, Samuelsson, Alexander Edler and Daniel Sedin also added helpers.

David Legwand and Joel Ward scored for Nashville. Ryan Suter, Nick Spaling and Martin Erat provided the assists for the Predators.

BOXSCORE

Vancouver’s power play bounced back in a big way, going 2-for-4 with the extra attacker, after struggling since midway through the first round.

Entering Game 3, the Canucks were still waiting for offensive contributions from their dynamic duo of Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The team’s twin forwards were pointless in the series after leading their team in scoring during the regular season.

Henrik has yet to score in the 2011 playoffs and prior to Game 3 neither had Kesler, a 41-goal scorer in 2010-11.

Kesler’s scoring funk, coupled with the Sedin’s failure to deliver offensively, had been a major reason why the Canucks power play was 0-for-9 in the series heading into Game 3.

Vancouver’s dominance on the power play had been their strength all season long and had started to fall short at the worst possible time against the stringently defensive Nashville team.

Power play struggles continued to be a trend early in Tuesday’s game, as Vancouver got off to an awful start with the extra attacker.

Legwand opened the score with a shorthanded goal midway through the first period, chopping a low one-timer past Luongo off of a heads-up pass from Suter, giving Nashville the 1-0 lead.

The Canucks’ power play bounced back on their next attempt and snapped out of their goalless streak while a few players broke out of offensive slumps of their own early into the second stanza.

Kesler scored his first of the playoffs with the man advantage 1:00 into the second period to even the score 1-1. The big centre tapped a pass from Erhoff into the empty net as Rinne had slid out of his crease, lured away by Erhoff.

Daniel Sedin also assisted on the Kesler goal for his first point of the series.

Once tied, Vancouver controlled the game throughout much of the second frame, holding Nashville without a shot for the first 17 minutes of the period and just nine total shots after 40 minutes.

Despite owning the puck, the Canucks were unable to get one past Rinne to take the lead in the middle frame.

Canucks left-winger Higgins fired a wrist shot over a sprawling Rinne as Vancouver forged ahead 2-1 awaiting a delayed penalty 3:03 into the third. Kesler and Edler drew the assists on the goal that silenced the yellow-clad Nashville crowd.

Nashville’s Ward evened the score 2-2 with wrap-around try that banked in off of a defender’s skate and into the back of the net. Erat earned the lone assist on the tying goal.

The goal came at 13:18 of the third period and re-energized the dormant Nashville crowd which had lost some of its vigour following the Higgins goal.

Both teams energetically tried to cash in on late scoring chances as regulation time came to an end as the teams looked to avoid overtime for a second straight contest.