The phrase "more guts than brains" probably covers it, but that's not meant to be a criticism. More like a tribute.

Nights like this, we who only witness and report on the plays hockey players make, while never really knowing what they're doing to their bodies behind the medical room door, truly are not worthy.

By the end of regulation time in Game 5 of the Western Conference final, fans at Rogers Arena had witnessed the kind of courage that people write paeans about, the kind that leaves a crowd buzzing long after the siren has gone.

If the faithful weren't quite generous enough to notice that San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton — with what sure looked like a classic shoulder separation the moment he collapsed under a thunderous Raffi Torres hit in Game 4 — must have had it strapped and shot up Tuesday but put in a hard and inspired evening's work, that's perhaps understandable.

Tunnel vision, and all that.

But Ryan Kesler? No subtitles required.

When he left in the middle of the second period, putting no weight on his left leg and having to be helped to the Vancouver Canucks' room, a city's insides froze.

When he came back to the bench, a long while later, there was little hope that he could play the way Ryan Kesler plays, and his first few shifts confirmed it.

When he stood in the face of San Jose goalie Antti Niemi with the last few seconds of regulation ticking away, and somehow found Henrik Sedin's desperate shot at the net and tipped it in to send the game to overtime, it was — as someone noted on Twitter — shades of Kirk Gibson limping his way around the basepaths after hitting the home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series.

Heroic? No, we save that word for more important lines of work these days. But courageous? Definitely.