As a perennial Selke Trophy nominee, Ryan Kesler could get away with just playing a defensive role for Vancouver.

But the Canucks center scored 41 goals in the regular season, and in order to to finish the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs on top Vancouver needs him to be at his tw0-way best.

Last night Kesler’s offense finally caught back up to his defense, as he scored his first two postseason goals, including the game-winner 10:45 into overtime. The Canucks downed Nashville, 3-2, in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series and took a 2-1 series lead.

For his offensive eruption and sudden-death heroics, Kesler is the Star of the Night.

As Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun wrote today, Kesler’s scoreless ways were acceptable in the first round, when he was expected to slow down Chicago star Jonathan Toews during the Canucks’ seven-game victory. Against the offense-challenged Predators, however, Kesler has to score.

MacIntrye writes:

And the hope for the Canucks is that it may cause a dam-burst in scoring for Kesler, who often collects goals in bunches. He had nine multi-goal games during the regular season.

His offence is vitally important against [Pekka] Rinne, especially since Canucks first-liners Daniel and Henrik Sedin continue to struggle for a bottom line.

Kesler also added an assist on Vancouver’s third goal. His point-production is finally up and so are the Canucks. If the Sedin brothers can join the fray now, Vancouver might heat up as a team at the right time.

Honorable mention: Steven Stamkos (GTG) and Ryan Malone (GWG) of Tampa Bay; Joel Ward (GTG) and Pekka Rinne (44-for-47 saves) of Nashville.

Last night’s scores
Tampa Bay 4, Washington 3
Vancouver 3, Nashville 2 (OT)

Tonight’s games
Philadelphia at Boston, 7
Washington at Tampa Bay, 7
San Jose at Detroit, 8