Part of the appeal of a sequel is that it’s predictable and that the ending almost is always a happy one.
While Thursday’s NHL Western Conference semifinal contest was the first of its kind in Nashville, it borrowed some from each of the two games in Vancouver that were prequel.
Therein was the cause for consternation among the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators and Canucks entered Game 3 of this best-of-seven set tied at one game apiece, so there was no way to know for sure which would prevail this time, particularly when it went to overtime.
Ultimately it was an element unique to the Game 3 plot — a successful power play — that produced a resolution. Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler scored his second goal of the contest 40 seconds after he drew a hooking call against Nashville’s Shea Weber, and Nashville fell 3-2 — a decidedly disappointing outcome for those on hand to witness hockey in May for the first time.
“They’ll say it was a good penalty; I’ll say it was a bad penalty,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They converted on the power play. So … .”
So, the Predators now trail 2-1 in the series with Game 4 set for Thursday night in the same building.
Kesler’s goal was the Canucks’ second with the man-advantage. That, after their power play was 0-for-6 in the first two games and then allowed a first-period shorthanded goal to David Legwand that gave Nashville an early lead in this one.
Weber was sent off as a result of a battle along the boards with Kesler that ended with Weber’s stick locked under Kesler’s arm. It was the only penalty called against either team after the second period.
“I’ve got one hand on my stick and he grabs my stick,” Weber said. “And I get a penalty. I don’t know. It’s [the referee’s] call.”
Trotz said it was not the first time in the series Vancouver drew penalties in that fashion.
Thus, the call was consistent with the fact that there was little in Game 3 that was not a part of the first two contests.
Much like the opener, the Canucks dominated in terms of shots on goal and faceoff success, particularly through the first two periods. The Predators won just 14 of 41 draws and were outshot 24-12 through the first 40 minutes.
The final edge in shots was decisive (47-30), but the Predators closed the gap on faceoff wins and finished with a deficit of eight (43-35).
Similar to Game 2, though, Nashville rallied late, just as hope started to wane. Joel Ward’s goal on a wrap-around with 6:42 to play in regulation lacked some of the drama of Ryan Suter’s tying goal with 67 seconds to play three days earlier but the effect was the same — it forced overtime.
“I think we are ready for whatever is thrown in our way,” Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. “When we scored at the end there again, it’s such a fun feeling to go overtime. Then it’s ‘game on’ and it can happen both ways.
“[Tuesday] they got a little bit fortunate there.”
One thing that has remained a constant from the moment the first puck dropped in the series has been the play of Rinne and his Canucks’ counterpart, Roberto Luongo.
Two-thirds of the Vezina Trophy finalists have done their part to keep scoring to a minimum. Neither team has led by more than a goal at any point.
“Each team had to fight for every inch on the ice,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “I thought for some parts, we carried the play and had some good quality chances but they have a great goaltender and we have a great goaltender and it made for a real good game.”
One that was brought to an end, in part, by a bad call. At least that’s the way the Predators saw it.
“A call that ticky-tac in overtime is kind of tough,” Legwand said. “I don't know if the ref had to be somewhere, but we had nowhere to [go] so it's a tough call to take.”