VANCOUVER, British Columbia — They are not exactly highlight reel material. More like blooper reel.
For the Nashville Predators, though, the unconventional goals scored by Ryan Suter and David Legwand in the Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks rank among the most important of the 10 the team has produced in the five games thus far.
In order for a team to make a deep run in the postseason, it needs to get a couple breaks along the way. Things are not always going to go smoothly.
Nashville has gotten those breaks against the team that had the NHL’s best record and allowed the fewest goals during the regular season.
The latest, Legwand’s goal early in the second period of the Predators’ 4-3 victory Saturday, helped extend the series to a sixth game. The first, Suter’s goal with 67 seconds to play in regulation, extended Game 2 beyond regulation.
“We’re just throwing it at the paint,” center Mike Fisher said. “That’s kind of a focus of ours — just throw it from anywhere. We kind of got rewarded for it [Saturday] night.
“That was a key goal.”
Faced with elimination and playing on the Canucks’ home ice, Nashville trailed 2-1 after the first period. On his opening shift of the second, Legwand was behind the net and under pressure from Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff.
Legwand simply attempted to flip the puck into some open space. It found some all right — the space behind goalie Roberto Luongo, in the net.
“It was a fortunate bounce and it kind of surprised Luongo,” Legwand said. “It just kind of deflected off [Ehrhoff’s] stick and went in the area of the net.”
To get there, it went from Ehrhoff’s stick, over the back of the net, off the glove of Vancouver’s other defenseman, Alexander Edler, and into the net before Luongo even knew what happened.
Legwand was credited with an unassisted goal, and the score was tied 2-2 a mere 51 seconds into the second period.
“It was a big break,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Obviously, we came out and got that goal and had a little bit of fortune there. Yeah, we’ll take it.”
The teams played basically even throughout the remainder of the period. Each side had eight shots on goal in the second and the score remained tied.
The Predators got the next two goals, both from Joel Ward early in the third, and for the first time ever won a playoff game when faced with elimination.
“After the first period we got the sweat going a little bit and got the nerves out of there,” goalie Pekka Rinne said. “It got a little bit easier for us, I’m sure, just momentum-wise, just to prove to ourselves that we can come back — the game’s not over if you are down 2-1.
“Mentally, these are big things.”
It was the second time in as many games at Rogers Arena that Nashville got a game-tying goal from below the goal line.
Suter was in the corner with the puck late in Game 2 and his team behind 1-0. That’s when he sent a pass toward the front of the net. There the puck went off defenseman Kevin Bieksa and into the skates of Luongo, who ultimately kicked it into the net himself.
In that case, Nashville only followed with one goal, but that was all that was needed. Matt Halischuk scored the game-winner in the second overtime.
Although perhaps not as extreme, Vancouver has gotten its breaks as well.
Alexandre Burrows scored shorthanded in Game 2 when his attempt at a pass deflected off the skate of defenseman Shea Weber and came right back to him. Burrows then scored into the side of the net that Rinne left open in reaction to the pass.
Chris Higgins scored in Game 3 when Rinne was knocked out of position by defenseman Kevin Klein, who was locked in a position battle with Canucks center Ryan Kesler at the time.
“If you keep putting pucks to the net, they’re going to bounce off of someone or something’s going to happen,” Trotz said. “We just kept trying to funnel the puck to the front of the net.
“Even if it’s behind the net, we’re trying to funnel it there. Sometimes good things happen.”
In this case, it’s happened more than once.