Predators stay alive in Vancouver

The Predators, the little-engine-that-could, stunned the home team Canucks with an impressive come-from-behind victory to extend the series to a sixth game on Monday back in Nashville.
Nashville Predators' David Legwand, left, and Joel Ward celebrate Legwand's goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of Game 5 in Vancouver on Saturday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A Vancouver Canucks fan remarked "I think it means good luck" as a hail storm pelted down and she ran for cover into an establishment called Rosie’s, a few blocks away from Rogers Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Maybe it was good fortune for Nashville Predators forward David Legwand, who scored one of the most bizarre goals in his team's 4-3 victory. Maybe it was good luck for late-bloomer Joel Ward, who scored twice in the third period and assisted on another to extend the second-round series back to Nashville for Game 6 on Monday.

Maybe the stormy weather was simply a sign that the Canucks still have plenty of choppy waters to navigate before they become a playoff hardened club. They made it difficult on themselves in the first round and have repeated the same mistake in the second round.

There was plenty of tough talk from the Canucks after they snatched a 3-1 series lead with two wins in Nashville. They vowed they learned a lesson from the first round, when they built a 3-0 series lead to the Chicago Blackhawks only to see the Stanley Cup champions win three in a row to force a deciding Game 7.

They vowed they had arrived home to close out the Predators. The Canucks didn’t want to give any momentum back to the little-engine-that-could. They wanted to stay at home for Mother's Day.

But instead of clinching the deal in front of the capacity crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena, the Canucks were sloppy and deserved to lose. Goalie Roberto Luongo wasn’t sharp. The Sedin twins combined for a horrible plus-minus rating of minus-seven and there were mistakes from defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler and forward Mikael Samuelsson that ended up behind Luongo.

"It's a game of mistakes," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "We made two and they capitalized on them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capitalize on their mistakes."

The first major Canucks mistake was a neutral zone giveaway from Samuelsson, who later in the first period departed the game for good with a left leg injury, that turned into a Ward-to-Legwand breakaway for a shorthanded goal. It was the third shorthanded goal the Canucks have yielded in this 12-game-old playoffs after surrendering only two in the 82-game regular season.

The Canucks, however, battled back for a 2-1 lead before the intermission. Raffi Torres, with his first of the playoffs, and the Canucks best playoff performer Ryan Kesler checked in with goals. But then the game went south for Vancouver, which held a 34-23 advantage on the shot clock.

Legwand flipped a puck over the Canucks net and off Edler for the tying goal early in the second period. Bieksa's clearing attempt early in the third was picked off by Nashville's Mike Fisher. He fed Ward with a pinpoint cross-ice pass for a Predators lead.

Ward scored again before Kesler tried to rally his teammates with his fifth goal in three games. But it wasn’t enough. The Predators have life.

"I don’t think they did anything special," Luongo said. "We dominated, but we made some mistakes.

"What are you going to do, that’s hockey? You can’t dwell on it."