By Mary Walsh
AP photo: San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski and teammates enjoy the jubilation after Pavelski’s goal against the Nashville Predators in game five at SAP Center Saturday night
SAN JOSE–The San Jose Sharks roundly defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 5-1 on Saturday. Most of the games in this series, including the triple overtime Game 4, have been much closer than that. On Saturday, it certainly seemed that the Sharks had no interest in any more overtime. They kept playing right up to the final horn.
Two goals came from Joe Pavelski, one from Melker Karlsson, one from Logan Couture and one from Patrick Marleau. Joonas Donskoi and Justin Braun each had two assists and Maetin Jones made 24 saves on 25 shots. The lone Nashville goal was scored by Mike Fisher, while Pekka Rinne made 23 saves on 27 shots.
Game 5 of the series is one the Sharks won and the Predators lost against their respective first round opponents. For them to repeat the pattern in the second round allows for tempting parallels. Nashville’s head coach Peter Laviolette was asked about how that first round experience can apply to this second round.
I think any time you’re in playoff hockey, experiences that you gain, good and bad, you learn from them. Just because we did something last round…. we gotta put the work in and make sure that we’re playing the game with the attitude that we need to be successful. So, yeah, we can take things from that but we’ve got to change our mindset here.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer made a few changes to his lineup before the fifth game of their series against the Nashville Predators. He replaced forward Tommy Wingels with Dainius Zubrus, and recomposed the fourth line to include Zubrus, Melker Karlsson and Nick Spaling. Patrick Marleau moved to the second line with Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi, and Joel Ward played with Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto.
Of the changes to the second line, DeBoer said after the game: “I thought it was Patty’s best game of the series and that line was excellent all night. Some changes work, and tonight that change worked.”
DeBoer also explained the other changes to his lines, which hinged somewhat on the performance of Chris Tierney:
I think there was a couple of things. I think the play of Tierney, I think he has been playing well. I felt he could jump into that third line role. Spaling’s naturally a center, that allowed him to get back into position. But we’re not comfortable making that move unless Tierney’s playing well and he has been playing well.
The end result of all this was a 5-1 win, giving the Sharks a 3-2 series lead over the Nashville Predators. The Predators were in this same spot against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. They came back to win games six and seven. After Saturday’s game, Predators head coach Peter Laviolette talked about what a team can learn from that sort of comeback:
The first few minutes of the game looked like a Predators penalty kill, the Sharks spent that much time in the offensive zone. After six inutesm the shots were 7-1 Sharks. By the ten minute mark, the Predators had closed the gap to 8-3 Sharks. The Sharks were shooting a lot in the first period.
That new line scored the first goal. Donskoi got control of the puck in the left corner, and danced around with it a bit, finally heading behind the net. The Predators didn’t quite buy it but they bit enough and started to follow him. He made a quick backhand reverse pass in the direction of Logan Couture, who was below the faceoff circle. Patrick Marleau was also closing on that spot and as the puck came between two defenders, Marleau put it in the net. It was Marleau’s third goal of the post season, and Donskoi’s third assist.
The Predators tied it at 15:40 after Colin Wilson’s pass from behind the net found James Neal on the inside edge of the faceoff circle. Neal had to reach for the puck so his pass was not very hard, but it got to Mike Fisher by the blue paint. Fisher had an open net with Jones high in the crease.
The Sharks took the lead back at 17:21 with a goal from Joe Pavelski. The Sharks circled the net with passes, from Thornton to Burns, to a wide shot collected by Hertl to the left of the net and passed back around the boards to Thornton. They repeated the same cycle a couple of times, with any strays cleaned up by Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the other point. After this routine had time to hypnotize everyone, Thornton changed it up and sent the pass to Pavelski, who was hanging out in the slot. His one timer went home for his seventh goal of the post season, with assists to Thornton and Vlasic.
At the end of the first, the shots were 13-11 Sharks.
35 seconds into the second period, Logan Couture took advantage of a Predators turnover in the neutral zone, and skated in all alone. He made a few quick moves with the puck and, when Rinne came out to meet him a little bt, he went for a back hand that went through the five hole. It was Couture’s fifth goal of the playoffs, with assist to Donskoi and Justin Braun.
The Sharks took the first penalty of the game when Brenden Dillon was called for interference.
Jones stopped a shot from the blue line in the first few seconds. Spaling cleared 30 seconds in, and the Sharks changed penalty killers. Around 1 minute in, the Sharks cleared it again. A few seconds after the next faceoff, the Sharks cleared it again, and a few seconds later, again. Then they knocked it down into the Nashville zone while still in the neutral zone. Almost as soon as the penalty ended, the Sharks were back on the attack in Nashville territory.
The Sharks got their first power play of the game when Roman Josi went to the box for interference on Logan Couture. The penalty came with just 46 seconds left in the period. The Sharks did not need that much time. Joe Pavelski scored just nine seconds into the penalty, off a pass that came from Patrick Marleau behind the net. It was Pavelski’s second of the game.
Ryan Johansen did not like any of that so he tried to bait Paul Martin. Martin did not respond, and eventually Johansen’a antics got him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with just 12.5 seconds left in the period.
The Sharks did not start the third on a power play, because with 2.1 seconds left in the second, Joel Ward received a 4 minute minor for high sticking. So the Predators started most of two minutes with the man advantage almost two minutes into the third. The Sharks killed it off, but near the end of it Logan couture blocked a shot that seemed to sting.
He was back out for his next shift.
The Predators finally caught the Sharks on the shot clock with 5:41 left in the game, when the teams were tied at 23. The Sharks did not let up either, and continued to launch serious attacks on the Nashville net.
With 3:59 left in the game, the teams played four on four for just under a minute before the Sharks had a four on three power play.
Ryan Johansen went off for unsportsmanlike conduct, for two minutes and a ten minute misconduct. Also gone for ten minutes was Mike Ribeiro. Joe Thornton went to the box for two minutes for slashing. 57 seconds into the four on four, Nashville’s Anthony Bitetto went to the box for tripping.
That left just over one minute for the teams to play at even strength. The Sharks scored again with 49.7 seconds remaining in the game. Carter Hutton, now in goal for Nashville, was a little late getting back to his net after playing the puck behind the net. Melker Karlsson took a quick shot as he to the crease. Assists went to Chris Tierney and Justin Braun.
Final score: 5-1 Sharks. Game Six will be in Nashville on Monday at 6:00 PT.