The bad news is that the Nashville Predators have had to play from behind often in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Vancouver Canucks.
The good news is that they’ve shown they also can come from behind.
“To get one to go in, it just makes you think a totally different way,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “Obviously, with the playoffs you’re not thinking you’re not going to win the game when you’re not scoring, but when you get one to go in it definitely helps.”
Three times in the last five games the Predators have forced overtime with a goal in the closing minutes of the third period. The latest was Tuesday when Joel Ward scored with 6:42 to go and forced a second straight extended contest.
“This team always shows resolve and resilience,” coach Barry Trotz said. “ … We didn’t play our best game at all and we found a way to get it tied up. We got to a situation in the overtime where we had some pretty good looks.”
The back-to-back overtime games are a first in the team’s playoff history as are the two overtime games at any point in a single series.
Relative to the other two, Ward’s goal came before players and coaches had a chance to break a sweat. Ryan Suter scored with 1:07 to play in regulation on Saturday at Vancouver, and Shea Weber tied Game 5 of the Anaheim series with 36 seconds remaining.
“We don’t practice going that late in a game,” Ward said. “We try not to make it that hard on ourselves, but sometimes it happens that way. We always do want to get out to a lead and build off of that.
“If we can establish getting a couple goals early, build some confidence, I think the game will work out a little bit better for us.”
It certainly would be a change in this series.
Over the first three games combined, Nashville has led Vancouver for a total of 10:42. That was the amount of time between David Lewgand’s first-period shorthanded goal, which gave the Predators a 1-0 lead, and Ryan Kesler’s power play tally one minute into the second period Tuesday.
“We know we’re playing against a different beast this time as opposed to the first series [with Anaheim],” Ward said. “[The Canucks] finished number one in the league and they’re there for a reason. It’s not like we’re going to expect to go out there and score five or six at the start. We know what we’re up against, but we can play sound defensively and get out chances.”
Vancouver, on the other hand, has played with the lead for 74:44 of the three games, which includes the final 27:36 of the series-opening 1-0 victory.
The Canucks similarly have gone to overtime in three of their last four and in each case they were the ones who allowed the game-tying goals. In both cases in this series, those goals were the result of deflections off Vancouver players.
“No matter what the score is we talked about keeping our composure,” Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo said. “Obviously, they got another lucky bounce [Tuesday], and we could have packed it in, but we stuck with it and kept playing our game.”
Twice in a row now, those games have continued longer than scheduled.
“We always do it the hard way,” Ward said. “Things may not go our way right at the start, but we’ll find a way to get it done. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”