Predators come up empty at Bridgestone in conference semifinals

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 12:47am

Theoretically, the Nashville Predators were at a disadvantage because they did not have home-ice advantage in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks.

As it turned out, they would have been better off had they played every game in Vancouver.

Nashville was eliminated with a 2-1 defeat Monday in Game 6 before a sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. Vancouver won the best-of-seven series 4-2 with three of those victories in the Predators’ building.

“We lost three home games, and I didn’t think that would ever happen, to be honest,” right wing Joel Ward said. “When you do that, you really dig yourselves a hole.

“If we had forced a Game 7, who knows?”

One thing is certain: That game would have been played at Rogers Arena, where the Predators won twice — both times in memorable fashion. They won Game 2 in double-overtime, the longest game in franchise history. Then their 4-2 victory Saturday in Game 5 was the first time they triumphed in an elimination game.

“It’s frustrating,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “You have to count on winning at home. We won two in their building. It’s just too bad we couldn’t pull one off [Monday] night.”

Man in charge: There is no award for the most valuable player of the conference semifinals. If there was, it would be no contest.

Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the series. He had at least two points in each of the last four games, including two assists in the clincher.

“He’s obviously decided to drive the bus,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “Obviously, he was our dominant force on the ice. … We needed that performance.”

As a means of comparison, only one Nashville player (Ward) had at least 10 points in the two playoff rounds combined. Ward had 13 (seven goals, six assists), including the primary assist on the Predators’ only goal in Game 6.

“[Kesler] was a force the whole series,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We used multiple people against him. He just had one of those series that’s remarkable for one player. He played on a level few people can reach.”

Tough call: Maybe the Canucks did not want to give the referees time to change their minds.

Vancouver wasted no time taking advantage of what seemed like a questionable call for embellishment against Jordin Tootoo and scored the game’s only power play goal 36 seconds later. Tootoo went down after a collision with defenseman Alexander Edler.

“I’m not even going to comment on it,” Trotz said. “It was a penalty; it was a penalty; it was a penalty. And we didn’t kill it off.”

The Canucks had four power play goals in their four victories, none in their two defeats.

Back in action: Jerred Smithson returned to action after having missed the final two periods of Game 4 and all of Game 5 with an upper body injury.

He played 12:08 and delivered three hits. He won just four of 13 faceoffs.

“I felt OK out there,” he said. “I wanted to get back in there and try to help the team. Whether I did or not, I don’t know. But it was good to be back out there.”

Power-less: Nashville had six power-play goals in the first-round series against Anaheim but converted just once in 21 attempts against Vancouver.

The Predators were 0-for-5 in the series clincher, which matched their worst performance. They also came up empty in five tries in the series opener, a 1-0 defeat.

“We had chances on our power play [Monday] night — we definitely had some chances,” Suter said. “We just couldn’t get one by them.”

Briefly: Sergei Kostitsyn, Nashville’s leader in goals during the regular season, had none (with five assists) in the playoffs. … Vancouver scored five first-period goals in the last three games. It had none in the first three. … Linemates Ward and David Legwand combined for eight of Nashville’s final nine goals in the series (four each). Defenseman Cody Franson had the other.