By Matthew T.F. Harrington
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks hoped having a pair of forwards return to the line-up Wednesday night might bring about scoring depth, especially at home where coach Pete DeBoer had final change and a chance at exploiting mismatches. Despite the returns of Joonas Donskoi and Ben Smith, the Sharks (5-4-0) scoring woes continued in a 2-1loss to the visiting Nashville Predators (7-1-1). Pekka Rinne held the Sharks to a lone goal, a goal by center Joe Pavelski, on 21 shots.
“He’s a good goalie,” said Pavelski. “He’s one of the better ones in the league. With all the goalies you have to get traffic. If they see it, they stop it.”
The Finn shut down San Jose to one goal or less for the fourth time in the last six games. In those games, the Sharks are 1-3-0, topping the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in the shootout for the sole victory on October 16th.
Nashville winger Eric Nystrom baffled Jones early, unleashing a dart from the left circle that beat the San Jose netminder to his stick side at the 3:22 mark of the 1st.
“You need a save there,” said Jones. “Early in the game you need a save there. It’s tough to come back from. That’s a tough defensive team with a good goalie.”
The Sharks held a 9-7 advantage in shots on goal after the period, but goalie Pekka Rinne and the Predators withstood a San Jose power play to get the home team off the stat sheet after 20 minutes.
It took 15 shots, but the Sharks final snuck a puck past Rinne in the 3rd period, with the Sharks captain tying the game 1:28 into the frame. Pavelski pounced on a rebound in the crease off a Matt Tennyson shot for his fourth of the season. Matt Nieto, taking a turn on the top line after playing the majority of the game on the third forward unit, also picked up an assist.
“It feels good to score,” said Pavelski. “But that’s that moment, then you move on for the next one. They got the next one. It takes away from it.”
Calle Jarnkrok gave Nashville that next one halfway through the period, taking a Gabriel Bourque pass and ripping it over Jones’ glove for his first goal of the season, the game winner Wednesday.
“The difference tonight was that their fourth line had two goals,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. “That was the difference in the game. Everyone else cancelled each other out.”
In total, Nashville scored on 2 of 24 shots against Jones.
“They didn’t have much,” said Pavelski of the Predators offensive chances on the night. “We didn’t have much. That’s how it is against those guys. The power play has to start putting one in.”
The Sharks special teams was 0-2 on the night, extending a scoreless streak to six straight opportunities with the man advantage. They also went 2-2 on the penalty kill.
“The special teams battle was even tonight,” said DeBoer. “They didn’t get one either. We need to start scoring there for sure. We had some great looks. Eventually something is going to go in.”
The Sharks will be looking for some treats from their nearly-whole lines and power play unit on Halloween when they visit the Dallas Stars Saturday before continuing the road trip with a pit stop in Colorado. After that, the team returns to SAP for four-straight home contests.