Consistent rallies prove Predators are more than just talk

Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 7:48pm

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Resilient.

Among the Nashville Predators, it’s heard about as often these days as ‘pucks,’ ‘sticks’ and ‘skates.’

It certainly came up Saturday following their 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, which extended the the team's Western Conference semifinal series to Monday’s Game 6 (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).

“You talk about a resilient effort — hanging with it and battling,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… We bent a few times but didn’t break. When it was on the line, our guys dug in and made it happen.”

So prevalent is the talk of resiliency that it practically has become a cliché. Like most cliché’s, though, it is rooted in elements of truth.

Nashville has won six games this postseason. That’s three times as many as in its five previous playoff appearances.

In each of the last four, it came from behind to claim victory, the latest after a 2-1 deficit at the end of the first period. The Predators got the next three and then held on as the Canucks opened up their attack.

In Game 2, Nashville trailed 1-0 for more than 36 minutes before a late Ryan Suter goal forced overtime. What eventually became the longest game in franchise history ended on Matt Halischuk’s goal in the second overtime.

In Game 5 of the conference quarterfinal series with Anaheim, the Predators trailed 2-1 and 3-2 — both during the third period — but eventually won in overtime. They closed out that series in the following contest despite the fact that the Ducks took an early 1-0 lead.

“We’ve been doing it all year,” Joel Ward said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity all year with different injuries and different things happening. So we’re just a good group here, a close-knit group and we’re just trying to help each other out.”

Big numbers: With seven points (four goals, three assists) in the last four games, Ward has tied the franchise record for points in a single playoff series.

David Legwand had two goals and five assists last year against Chicago, and Paul Kariya had two goals and five assists in 2006 against San Jose.

“[Ward] comes to play every night,” Legwand said. “He’s a big, strong man with a big, strong body. He’s been big for us.”

Ward now has nine career playoff goals, which ties him with David Legwand for the most in franchise history. Shea Weber (eight) started the series as the team’s all-time leader.

“He’s been stepping up when we need him, scoring big goals,” Weber said. “Obviously, he did that again [Saturday].”

Out in front: Saturday’s third period was just the second of the series in which both teams had at least 10 shots on goal.

Vancouver had 14 and Nashville had 10.

Not coincidentally, it was also the only time either side had a two-goal lead with any meaningful amount of time on the clock. Ward scored twice in the opening six minutes and gave the Predators a 4-2 lead.

“They had to try and push the pace and they had to try and generate chances,” Weber said. Maybe that got them away from their defensive mode a little bit.

“It’s been our goal this whole series to try and play with the lead but that hasn’t really been the case.”

Lean times: Mike Fisher picked a bad time to commit a penalty.

It didn’t force the Predators into a shorthanded situation but it did leave them short on centers.

He was sent to the box as one half of coincidental roughing minors (Vancouver’s Christian Ehrhoff also sent off) with 10:49 to play. At that point, Legwand was in the midst of a skate repair, and Nick Spaling had not returned from an injury that sidelined him temporarily.

“We said, ‘Hey, anybody played center before? You’re going in,” Trotz said. “That’s how we had to approach it.”

Quote of note: “We have to play desperate again. All we’ve done is win one game — we’re still down 3-2 in the series. We’re still facing elimination.” — defenseman Shane O’Brien on winning Game 5.

Briefly: Goalie Pekka Rinne has as many wins in these playoffs (six) as all other Nashville goalies combined. Rinne also had two wins last year, which means he has been in the nets for eight of the Predators’ 14 postseason victories. … Nashville is 1-2 all-time in Game 6 of playoff series. Its one victory was this season against Anaheim. … Nashville defenseman have three points (one goal, two assists) in the series. Vancouver defensemen Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler have five and three, respectively, on their own.