NASHVILLE -- Ryan Kesler was again the dominant force for the Canucks in Game 6, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz took the time to tell the Vancouver forward just that after the game.
"As I said when I was going by him, if he doesn't play that way, we're probably going to Game 7 and we might win this series, but he played to a level that is few people can reach in a series," Trotz said after his Predators were eliminated Monday night.
Kesler stole the puck from Ryan Suter to set up the first goal of the game. Less than two minutes later, he set up Daniel Sedin for a power-play goal that turned out to be all the Canucks would need to move on to the Western Conference finals.
"He was a force the whole series. We've used multiple people against him," Trotz said.
"He had one of those series that is absolutely remarkable for one player."
Kesler's line for the series is mind-boggling: five goals, six assists and two game winners.
"The man's just a horse. No one really takes the puck away from him. He doesn't really lose a battle. His feet never stop moving. It's a pleasure playing with him," Vancouver forward Chris Higgins said.
"Might as well just give him the Conn Smythe right now," added netminder Roberto Luongo.
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault was, not surprisingly, full of praise for Kesler's play, although he did note that the Canucks will need more players producing if they're going to get through the Western Conference finals against either San Jose or Detroit.
"He's obviously decided to drive the bus, and he obviously was our dominant force on the ice. He played real strong at both ends of the rink, and we needed that performance. And, we need it to continue. We need some other guys to come on board here because it's not going to get easier; it's going to get tougher," Vigneault said.
With his chin still bristling from stitches earned from a puck to the face in Game 5, Kesler seemed at a loss to explain his prowess: "I struggled against these guys this year during the regular season.
"It was just happening for me out there. I was just trying to work extremely hard and put my best game on the ice every night."
He acknowledged that sometimes when a player is in a zone like this the puck just gravitates to you.
"I think you get in streaks in games where the puck seemed to be magnetized to your stick. The past couple of games, it's been doing that," he said.
Another farewell at home
The Nashville Predators have been eliminated from the playoffs six times. Every time, they have bowed out at home.
On Monday the sellout crowd at the Bridgestone Arena stayed long after the final buzzer, serenading its boys.
"Our fans are top-notch fans. We're proud of them. We wish we could still be playing for them," veteran Predator David Legwand said.
'It's a penalty'
One of the key plays of the game was a diving call against rugged Nashville Predator Jordin Tootoo midway through the first period.
The Canucks scored quickly on the ensuing power play to go up 2-0, a deficit the Predators could not overcome.
Asked after the game about the call, Trotz took the high road.
"It really doesn't matter. Looking at it, ah, I'm not even going to comment on it. It's a penalty. It's a penalty. It's a penalty," Trotz said.
Luongo calls game a shutout
The Predators' lone goal, by Legwand, went to video review after he seemed to beat Luongo from a bad angle.
The goal stood, but Luongo insisted the puck never crossed the line: "There was no goal; I had a shutout tonight. What can I say. Seems to be a few of those this series. Couldn't catch a break, but at the end of the day, we won the game and that's all that matters."