By Mary Walsh
USA Today photo: San Jose Sharks Martin Jones stops a shot by the Nashville Predators in game two at SAP Center on Sunday
SAN JOSE–The San Jose Sharks took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-2 victory against the Nashville Predators. Four of the goals were scored in the second half of the third, three of those in the final three minutes. It was not the Sharks’ best game, defensively or offensively, but it got the job done. After the game, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said as much:
We won and in the playoffs you’ve got to win all kinds of different ways. I really liked our first period. I thought their desperation level was just a little bit higher than ours in the second and third. I think that’s what you saw, and rightfully so. You got a team that is facing going down two game and no one wants to lose the first two game of a series. We knew their desperation level was going to be high and we found a way to weather it and Jonesy was fantastic and the important this is we won.
The win was significant also for being a home game. Not only have the Sharks been better on the road, but the Nashville Predators have too, at least in the first round of these playoffs. The Sharks were out shot and out hit on Sunday but they won where it mattered. Goals were scored by Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and a game winner from Joe Thornton. Martin Jones made 37 saves for the win. Mattias Eckholm and Ryan Johansen scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne made 22 saves.
Craig Smith was back in the Nashville lineup after missing Game 1. The first period did not look anything like the first period of the first game. This time, both teams started fast and earned chances early. They were slim chances, with no one having much room to choose a shot or get in position to make a play.
The Sharks were the beneficiary of that speedy play, in the form of an early power play. Roman Josi was called for cross-checking Chris Tierney at 6:24. The Sharks’ power play started out very well, with the Predators giving San Jose plenty of room to get set up. A rather cavalier behind-the-back pass from Joe Thornton to Logan Couture exemplified how composed the Sharks were with the man advantage. Yet that excess of time and space did not benefit the Sharks in the most practical sense: they did not score.
At even strength, the fourth line was very effective, making the Nashvile defense burn a lot of defensive fuel and block shots.
The Sharks went on the penalty kill at 13:38 when Joel Ward was called for tripping. Karlsson got the first clear, Couture the second, Dillon a third. The Predators got three shots through to Jones but he stopped them.
As the first ended, the Predators led the Sharks in shots by 10-7. That count did not include the ten shots that Nashville blocked. The Sharks had blocked five.
The Sharks started the second mostly trapped in their own zone. When they finally escaped, they came out with their best chance to that point. Couture and Donskoi went fast down the left wing and Couture managed to get a shot off. Rinne kicked out a rebound but Donskoi could not elevate it enough to beat Rinne’s right pad.
As the second period wore on, the Predators dominated on the shot clock and continued to block shots. By the 13 minute mark, Nashville had 11 shots to the Sharks’ 4.
At 15:16, the Sharks were penalized for too many men on the ice. The penalty kill started out fairly chaotic, with a snarl of bodies just in front of the blue paint. Finally they got untangled, with broken sticks sliding around and no one really able to control the puck. From that helter-skelter start, the Sharks pulled off another kill that ended with a short handed chance. Matt Nieto and Marc-Edouard Vlasic made a nice play but Rinne stopped them.
The Predators took their own too many men penalty shortly thereafter. Trying to avoid the call, Roman Josi tried to get off the ice by climbing over the wall in front of the Sharks bench. That did not pass muster. After the game, DeBoer was asked about the incident: “I’ve never seen that before. 25-30 years of hockey, and I’ve never seen that situation before. I don’t know, it’s a good question. I’m assuming it’s a rule, that they’re not allowed to change into our bench.”
32 seconds into that power play, a Brent Burns shot produced a rebound for Logan Couture to put away. Couture had been lurking around behind the net, making an inconspicious pass or two, then moving in front of the net just as the puck made its way to Burns. Burns did not have to wait long after receiving the puck from Thornton before taking his shot. Pavelski deflected the shot which created a rebound for Couture, who had an open net. It was Couture’s fourth goal of the playoffs. Assists went to Pavelski and Burns.
At the end of the second period, the Sharks led 1-0, despite their shot deficit of 16-25 for the game. The Sharks had blocked ten shots in the second, while the Predators had blocked twelve.
The Sharks found themselves short handed again 6:34 into the third. Brenden Dillon was called for roughing. He Just 23 seconds into the kill, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was hit in the head by a Shea Weber shot. He stayed down for a spell before returning to the bench. He did not go to the room.
At 12:56 of the third, Nashville tied it up. Mattias Eckholm took a shot from the blue line, just as three skaters converged in front of Martin Jones. The shot went just wide of Jones’ glove.
The Sharks got it back at 17:23. Thornton skated into the slot and passed the puck to Matt Nieto on the wing. Nieto waited until the last moment to take a shot. Rinne stopped the shot but it bounced off of a Nashville skater and landed in front of Joe Pavelski. He put it where it belonged. It was an unlocky bounce for Nashville, especially coming so late in the game. Assists went to Nieto and Thornton.
The Predators responded by pulling Rinne with more than two minutes to go. They sustained pressure for about a minute before a puck went over the glass and Nashville used their time out. When play resumed with a defensive zone draw for the Sharks, Pavelski controlled the puck and passed it out of the zone. Joe Thornton was on his way through the neutral zone when Pavelski’s pass found him. Thornton took his time and put the puck in the empty net.
Nashville responded with a furious attack on the Sharks’ net. With just 1.6 seconds to go, Ryan Johansen scored, making Thornton’s empty net goal the game winner.
The series now moves to Nashville for Game Three on Tuesday at 6:00 PT.
In case you missed the black cat tale from Game 1, you can read the updated version with video at NHL.com here: Sharks working to find home for ‘Joe Paw-velski’