Somebody cue the Alec Baldwin, "
Somebody needs to get through to the Vancouver Canucks that blowing potential closeout Game 5s of a playoff series at home isn't good. The Canucks got away with it once, in the first round against Chicago, and odds are still good they will prevail again in the Western semifinals against Nashville. But in no way is it a good thing for Vancouver that it has to hop back on a charter and fly from western Canada all the way down south for Monday night's Game 6.
The Canucks could have given themselves a few days of R&R at home with a win in Game 5 Saturday night at the Rogers Centre. But a sloppy and soft first half of a third period was all the Predators needed to take advantage in their 4-3 stayin'-alive victory.
After doing all the smart, correct things in the lategoings of the previous two games in Nashville, which enabled Vancouver to come home with a 3-1 lead for the second time this postseason, the Canucks got lax this time.
In a 2-2 game entering the third, Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa committed a horrible turnover along the right boards in the Canucks' zone. One of the intended consequences of the NHL's institution of a delay-of-game penalty a few years ago, to players if they flip puck over the glass in their own zone, has been to make D-men in particular skittish about just flipping it out high in tight, late-game situations.
Used to be defenders who were in trouble could just loft it into the stands and not worry about it, but not now. Perhaps that's why Bieksa seemed to nervously shoot a loose puck up the wall in the zone at the end of a long shift. Trouble was, Nashville's Mike Fisher was right there to intercept it, and he immediately spotted linemate Joel Ward open on the opposite side of the ice. Ward perfectly one-timed Fisher's cross behind Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo at the 1:14 mark to break the tie.
Ward wasn't done; at the 5:45 mark, he was again the beneficiary of some sloppy handling of the puck by the Canucks and a theft from a teammate. Nashville's Blake Geoffrion -- yes, of that Geoffrion hockey family -- poke-checked a puck loose from behind on Canucks D-man Alex Edler. Ward picked up the loose change and deposited it behind Luongo again for the 4-2 edge. To that point, it was just Nashville's eighth scoring chance of the game, but they made good on half. Not bad. Vancouver's Ryan Kesler played a terrific final five minutes and gave his team a chance with a goal to make it 4-3 with 3:46 left, but the Canucks never really did get anything great on Pekka Rinne from there.
So now it's back to the Music City, where the Canucks may have to do without solid scorer Mikael Samuelsson for Game 6. Samuelsson was hurt with 7:32 left in the first period after being tangled up with Nashville's Nick Spaling battling for a puck and didn't return.
Samuelsson limped off the ice, appearing to favor his left leg.
Injuries can happen any time a playoff series is extended -- it's why coaches get gray hairs from their teams not closing out series when they can. If Samuelsson is lost for any length of time, it will hurt the Canucks.
In winning their first "elimination game" in franchise history, the Predators get at least one more game in front of their mustard-shirted, towel-waving partisans. The Canucks still have two potential chances to win this thing and move on. But they forgot the iron-clad lesson of "