The lone game on Thursday’s NHL playoff slate features a Western Conference semifinal matchup between the heavily favored Vancouver Canucks and the pesky Nashville Predators. The puck drops from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at 5:30 p.m. (PT), with the Verizon network providing television coverage.
Though Vancouver entered this series as the No. 1 seed and a hefty 270 series favorite, the series has been anything but one-sided. All three games have been decided by one goal, with the last two going into overtime.
Most sports books monitored by Don Best Sports’ Real-Time Odds have installed the Canucks as 125 road favorites for Game 4, with the total set at five ‘under’ (minus 125).
The Canucks took a 2-1 series lead thanks to Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory as 115 road favorites. The combined five goals landed directly on the closing total, ending a string of six straight ‘under’ games between the Canucks and Predators.
The win allowed Vancouver to improve to a sizzling 25-9 in its last 34 road endeavors and to 7-2 in the last nine trips to Nashville. The ‘under’ is 5-2-1 in the last eight meetings in the Music City.
Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler scored the winner at 10:45 of the first overtime period when he tipped in a Mikael Samuelsson point shot. The goal, Kesler's second of the night, came with Nashville defenseman Shea Weber off serving a hooking penalty that the Predators and their fans didn't think he deserved.
Kesler snapped a lengthy playoff drought with his two goals. He also assisted on Vancouver's other goal by line-mate Chris Higgins. A 41-goal scorer in the regular season, Kesler had entered the game without a goal in Vancouver's first nine playoff games.
Though the winning goal might have been tainted by a ticky-tack penalty, the Canucks did deserve the result based on a steep territorial advantage. Vancouver outshot the Preds 47-30 and was the better team for most of the night. The Canucks have now outshot the Predators in the first three games of the series by a combined 110-96.
Nashville has outshot Vancouver once in the series, garnering a 46-33 advantage in its Game 2 win.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault shuffled all four of his forward lines for Tuesday night's game and it was the trio of Kesler, Mason Raymond and Higgins that made the difference. They were Vancouver's best line from start to finish as the Sedin twins had another largely ineffective offensive night.
Vancouver had managed just one goal on Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in each of the first two games of this series and the way the game started it looked like he might thwart the Canucks again.
Vancouver had the first nine shots of the game, but couldn't beat Rinne. When Legwand scored a short-handed goal at the 10:18 mark of the first period, the Preds had the lead and some life. Legwand's goal occurred seconds after a delayed penalty had been called on Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler for a hook behind the net on Legwand.
Nashville, 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 3, is now 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the series. The Canucks were 2-for-4 with the extra attacker in Game 3, and are now 2-for-10 in the series.
Joel Ward forced the overtime by scoring for Nashville at the 13:18 mark of the third period. It was Ward’s team-leading fourth postseason goal. Ward was ninth on the team in points (29) and eighth in goals (10) during the regular campaign. But he has emerged in the postseason as some of his more offensive-minded teammates have received more attention.