Sports Hockey

Kesler finally breaks out

Canucks' Roberto Luongo has the puck bounce off his mask as Predators' Jonathon Blum looks for a rebound. (REUTERS/M.J Masotti Jr.)

Canucks' Roberto Luongo has the puck bounce off his mask as Predators' Jonathon Blum looks for a rebound. (REUTERS/M.J Masotti Jr.)

NASHVILLE - To the Nashville Predators, the hooking infraction on Shea Weber was a terrible and costly call.

To the Vancouver Canucks, it was the right decision.

The debate will rage, but in the end Weber's trip to the sin bin set the stage for Ryan Kesler's overtime winner in a 3-2 victory which gives the Canucks a two-games-to-one lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.

"I don't know if Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get outta here pretty quick," said Predators forward David Legwand, who is undoubtedly going to face a fine.

Peel was the referee who called the infraction on Weber.

Weber was chasing Kesler deep in Nashville territory and put his stick into the arms of the Vancouver forward.

Kesler made sure everyone could tell Weber's stick was in his midsection by clamping down with his arm and the call was made.

On the ensuing powerplay, Kesler deflected Mikael Samuelsson's point shot for the goal, which will undoubtedly make him Public Enemy No. 1 in Nashville for the next couple of days.

At least until we see what transpires in Game 4 on Thursday.

"Any time you put a stick in someone's gut, it has to be called," Kesler insisted. "That was a good call. He was hooking me and when you get a stick caught in my arm, it's his own fault."

"I thought it was a little bit light considering all the other stuff that was going on," countered Preds head coach Barry Trotz. "It was a sell by Kesler, a chicken wing on the stick. Webs is pushing him, trying to get his stick out of there. We've seen it before.

"They'll say it's a good penalty. I'll say it's a bad penalty, and they converted on the powerplay."

In fact, the Canucks converted on the powerplay for the second time, both goals by Kesler, who finished with three points in a dominating performance to break out of his goal-scoring slump.

The Canucks had the No.-1 powerplay in the league during the regular season, but to say they were sputtering with the man-advantage would be an understatement, to say the least.

Not only did the Canucks fail to convert during their first two games of this series, they had gone though five games without a powerplay goal.

That run looked even worse when Legwand's first-period shorthanded goal opened the scoring to the delight of the Bridgestone Arena sellout crowd of 17,113.

However, Kesler set the wheels in motion early in the second period to make it a 1-1 game, and when Chris Higgins scored early in the third period to give the visitors their first lead of the night, it appeared the Canucks were off and running.

But the Predators showed they won't go down with out a fight, and Joel Ward scored late in regulation to force overtime.

Ward's wraparound attempt was headed through the crease to the other side, but the puck went off the skate of a Canucks defender and past Roberto Luongo.

It's the second straight outing and the third time in four games the Canucks have seen a lead evaporate late in regulation time.

"It was a tough break," Luongo said. "What are you going to do? You've just got to laugh it off. We liked the way we were playing, so you can't put your shoulders down, keep at it, and we got rewarded."

Now, it's up to the Predators to regroup again.

"They grabbed the momentum," Trotz said. "It's our job to grab it right back."