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Preds beat themselves, Canucks put stranglehold on series…

At the end of the day, it wasn’t the Vancouver Canucks that beat the Nashville Predators. It was the Predators that beat themselves.

After only firing 21 shots on goal, failing to convert on a 5-on-3 powerplay at a key moment of the game and taking an ill-timed and blatent holding penalty that led to the game-winning goal, the Predators have nobody to blame but themselves for the Game 4 loss.

The Canucks, in front of 17,113 inside Bridgestone Arena, put a stranglehold on this Western Conference Semifinal by winning 4-2 and taking a 3-1 lead in the series headed back to Vancouver.

Pekka Rinne finished the game with 24 saves and fell to 5-6 in this seasons playoffs.

Even though it came via an empty net, this was the first game of the series that ended without a one-goal margin. It was also the first time a team has had a two goal lead in this series. Again, despite coming on an empty netter.

At the end of the first period, the officials (who were not the same as the controversials ones in Game 3, by the way) didn’t do anything to ease their Northern-bias image among the Predators faithful. With Alex Burrows interfering with Rinne in front, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff wristed a shot through. There was no call onthe play and Vancouver took a 1-0 lead.

Moments later, not only did Joel Ward answer for Nashville, but he broke two franchise records while doing it. With the goal, Ward recorded his eighth point this playoff year, breaking the old record of seven held by David Legwand (2007) and Paul Kariya (2006). He also broke Martin Erat (2010) and JP Dumont‘s (2007) record of four goals in a playoff year.

Early in the middle frame Vancouver re-took the lead on a goal from Alex Edler. It was almost a mirror image of the first goal but without the interference. The puck found it’s way through three bodies and hit the twine to make it 2-1.

The Predators were then handed a golden opportunity. A 0:44 5-on-3 power play. Instead of try to get pucks on net so the defense would collapse around Roberto Luongo, thus freeing up space for shooters, they passed the puck around the point looking for the perfect play. Which, of course, never came. They finished the 5-on-3 with just a single shot on goal and both power plays with two total, neither of which were overly dangerous.

Nashville did tie the game, however, on one of the weirdest goals you’ll see. Cody Franson fired a shot from the blueline that found it’s way through Luongo but nobody in the building knew. It took two Preds players raising their arms for the referee to look in the goal and see the puck. After he motioned toward the net, Bridgestone Arena erupted in response to the tying goal.

After Ryan Suter took an ill-timed penalty for holding (read: clotheslining) Ryan Kesler in front of Rinne, the victim made the Preds pay by bagging the eventual game-winning goal halfway through the third.

Now the Canucks and Preds will head back to British Columbia for Game 5 on Saturday night. Per a winning tradition, the Viewing Party will be at Brewhouse South in Franklin’s Cool Springs area. Both times we held our viewing party there, the Predators have won in overtime so, we thought, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

See you Saturday night. Get there early though as the puck drops right in the heart of the weekend night dinner rush (7:00pm Central) so plan accordingly. Log onto to see all the other viewing party locations.

* Due to a lower-body injury to verteran winger Steve Sullivan on Tuesday night, Colin Wilson saw his first playoff ice of the season tonight.
* While the Canucks were on their first power play of the game, they had a wide open net to shoot at and Nick Spaling made a diving block to keep the game scoreless.
* Jerred Smithson left the game with a broken nose, suffered by the elbow of Kesler at the end of the first period.
* Patric Hornqvist only played 10:05 with a rumored lower-body injury. Despite the limited ice time (and the apparent injury), he still led the Preds in shots. That’s all you need to know about the offensive effort in this one.
* In a ridiculous case of irony, Shane O’Brien was the only Predator to finish with a positive rating (plus-1).
* Props to XM Radio and NHL Network’s NHL Live for asking us to contribute questions for the “Ask EJ” segment with EJ Hradek. We had a great time doing it and we’re here for you anytime you need us.

MY THREE STARS (as voted on with 7:44 remaining in regulation):


PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy K. Gover //

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