published Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Predators win 4-3, extend series

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — With Joel Ward scoring two goals less than five minutes apart early in the third period, the Nashville Predators stayed alive against the Vancouver Canucks with a 4-3 win Saturday night in Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series.

David Legwand also scored twice, Pekka Rinne made 29 saves and Ward had three points for the Predators, who still trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven series but will return home for Game 6 on Monday night.

Ryan Kesler, who had his face stitched up after he was struck by a deflected puck, scored his second goal of the game with 3:46 left. Kesler has five goals in three games, but it wasn’t enough to put the Canucks into the conference finals yet.

The Predators, in the second round for the first time in franchise history, won for the first time when facing elimination. They had been 0-5.

Coming off a two-point effort in a Game 4 loss, Ward one-timed a cross-ice pass from Mike Fisher past the blocker of Roberto Luongo to put Nashville ahead 3-2 at 1:14 of the third. He pounced on a turnover inside the left circle 4:31 later and quickly snapped a shot past Luongo’s glove to make it a two-goal lead.

Ward has four goals and six points in the last three games, and has already set franchise records with seven goals and 12 points in the playoffs.

Raffi Torres also scored, and Luongo made 19 saves for the Canucks, who blew a 3-0 series lead to Chicago in the first round before winning Game 7 in overtime.

They won Games 3 and 4 in Nashville but didn’t want to go back as they hoped to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1994. Game 7, if necessary, would be in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The Canucks also lost forward Mikael Samuelsson to an undisclosed lower-body injury in the first period. Bothered by an abdominal injury most of the season, Samuelsson got tied up with Nick Spaling in a puck battle, spun to the ice and didn’t got up. He couldn’t put weight on his left leg as he was helped off the ice.

Samuelsson had been dropped to the fourth line, but was still playing the point on the No. 1 power-play unit. His gaffe there helped Nashville take a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal.

The Canucks started quickly, forcing Rinne to make a couple of good early saves and drawing a penalty. But Samuelsson coughed up the puck, and Ward sent Legwand in alone. Legwand snapped a shot under Luongo’s blocker just 3:42 in.

It was the Predators’ second lead of the series, but it didn’t last long.

Just over two minutes later, Jannik Hansen stole the puck from Jonathan Blum as he was coming back into own end in front of the net, and made a nice cross-crease pass to a wide-open Torres on the far side. Torres quickly snapped a shot past a diving Rinne for his first playoff goal since 2006 with Edmonton.

Kesler gave Vancouver the lead on a 2-on-1 rush with 4:54 left in the first period. He fought off the backcheck from Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber and lifted the puck past a sliding Rinne as Weber crashed into the post. It was Kesler’s fourth goal in three games, including two game-winners.

Legwand got Nashville into a 2-2 tie with help from a lucky bounce 51 seconds into the second period. Legwand’s pass from behind the net deflected off Christian Ehrhoff’s stick, up and over the net and Luongo’s head, off Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler’s chest and in.

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