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NHL Playoff Roundup

Predators turn back Canucks, extend series

Associated Press / May 8, 2011

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Joel Ward scored two goals less than five minutes apart early in the third period and the Nashville Predators stayed alive in the Western Conference semifinals by taking a 4-3 win over the Canucks in Game 5 last night in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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 tomorrow 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.

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.

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 get up. He couldn’t put weight on his left leg as he was helped off the ice.

The fact that the Detroit Red Wings are still skating in San Jose offers a small glimmer of hope that maybe they can add a little more drama to the franchise’s storied history.

At this point, they’ll take anything they can get.

The Red Wings took an overnight flight to California after Game 4, landed in the wee hours yesterday morning, and were back practicing before noon despite little sleep.

“Hey, we’re not dead,’’ said Todd Bertuzzi.

There’s no time to rest, either.

Only three NHL teams have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a best-of-seven series. Game 5 is tonight at San Jose.

“We’re going to do everything we can possibly do to force a Game 6, and then anything can happen,’’ said Kris Draper.

Rangers forward Sean Avery became one of the few active athletes in American team sports to voice support for gay rights, and is believed to be the first in New York to publicly advocate for same-sex marriage, which he did in a video. No active male player in a major American team sport has declared his homosexuality.

Avery, a 31-year-old from Pickering, Ontario, has played nine seasons in the NHL and is known as a fashion-conscious, on-ice agitator. His 30-second video opens with a close-up of him looking into the camera.

“I’m Sean Avery, and I’m a New Yorker for marriage equality,’’ he says. “I treat everyone the way I expect to be treated, and that applies to marriage.’’

Material from the New York Times was used in this report.

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