It's a myth that Ryan Kesler plays his best hockey against the Nashville Predators.

The Vancouver Canuck centre played – past tense – the best hockey of his National Hockey League career in a virtuoso playoff performance against the Predators 2½ years ago. But in the regular season, with just six goals and 11 points in 31 career games against Nashville before Tuesday, Kesler is actually less productive against the Predators than he is against 26 other teams.

But he set his time machine to May, 2011 on Tuesday night, scoring twice in the third period and driving Vancouver to a 3-1 win against the Predators.

They were ugly goals that made a beautiful road trip for the Canucks, who are scheduled to fly home today after going 3-1 in Ottawa, New York, Raleigh and Nashville, losing only against the Rangers on Saturday.

With back-to-back wins for the first time since Oct. 28 and 4-2-1 in their last seven games, the Canucks are finally warming up for winter in the NHL. Kesler, however, is scorching hot. He also scored twice in Sunday's 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes and has five points in three games.

“Kes has been playing really well and he was probably our best player tonight,” coach John Tortorella said. “He put us on his shoulders there and, I thought, led the way. I don't want to screw around with that.”

So not fixing what isn't broken, Tortorella left Kesler at the player's favoured centre position when forward lines were remade Tuesday in the absence of injured winger Alex Burrows. Kesler and wingers Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli were the Canucks best trio, leading Vancouver's surge in the final 30 minutes against Nashville.

“Obviously, it's nice coming back to a place where you've had success,” Kesler said. “But saying that, it just wasn't about me.”

But it was a lot about him on Tuesday, and a little about some other things as the Canucks finally showed some signs of the “traction” Tortorella has been calling for.

Excluding the 5-2 loss to the Rangers, Vancouver has played somewhere between decent and excellent in six straight games.

Beating the Predators briefly lifted the Canucks into a playoff position for the first time in more than two weeks – until the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 later Tuesday.

The Canucks open a five-game homestand Friday against the Coyotes, and several components of Vancouver's play have improved.

The once-dormant power play has generated goals in six straight games, helping the Canucks end a team-wide scoring slump. They're scoring goals on rebounds and bounces, going into tough areas to get them. They're starting to grind out wins instead of blowing them. And Kesler is back in vintage form, back in his familiar position in the middle after an extended deployment by Tortorella on right wing.

“It's a good thing for me that I know I can use him at wing,” the coach said. “I think he's a better wing than he thinks. . . but he did so many good things for us tonight. I liked how that line was playing.”