2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 3 Recap
Western Conference Semifinal Game 3 - Vancouver 3, Nashville 2 (OT) – Canucks lead series, 2-1
This is the kind of moment that’s been all too elusive for the Vancouver Canucks in their 40-year history, a road littered with broken dreams and shattered hopes. This is the kind of moment that a snake-bitten franchise has been yearning for, but has rarely received. On Tuesday night in Nashville, Tennessee, a team from a hockey-mad country went into the unlikeliest of hockey hotbeds and pulled out a win that could transform its playoff journey.
The Canucks were questioned and speculated about with typical frenzy after their double-overtime loss in Game 2 of this Western Conference semifinal series on Saturday night in British Columbia. Outplaying the Nashville Predators but not beating them had to sting the top-seeded Canucks, who were still trying to get past the mentally draining experience of fighting past the Chicago Blackhawks in a seven-game round- one war. Vancouver soundly outplayed Nashville in Game 2 but could not solve the Preds’ brilliant goalie, Pekka Rinne, who stopped 18 shots in overtime, several of them on glorious point-blank chances for the Canucks, who were left muttering when they lost after nearly 35 minutes of extra-time hockey. As Vancouver made the trek to America’s Sun Belt and dealt with the tension of two off days, the Canucks were forced to contend with one of the worst enemies a professional athlete can have: the human mind. Vancouver was left with no choice but to think about the twists and turns of these playoffs, given extra weight by all the failures that have preceded them in seasons past. Vancouver has never lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup, so as Game 3 began at Bridgestone Arena before a crowd that participated in an eye-grabbing “yellow-out,” it was the visiting team that bore the burden of expectations… and the wrenching Game 2 loss on Saturday.
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Ryan Kesler, then, could very well be called “Atlas” after what he did to alter the complexion of his team’s NHL odyssey in 2011. Kesler scored a tying goal midway through the second period and then beat Rinne for a power-play goal at 10:45 of overtime to give the Canucks a cathartic win and the edge in this best-of-seven series. So close to the precipice of defeat and the doubts that would have accompanied another overtime loss, the Canucks instead erased the memory of Game 2 and reclaimed home-ice advantage. The team that felt such pressure in the first round against Chicago has now been able to gain leverage over and against a Nashville team that’s playing in the second round of the playoffs for the very first time. It’s impossible to overstate just how much this means for Vancouver. The road to the Western Conference finals just became a lot more manageable for a team intent on finally burying its postseason demons.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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