San Jose uses a five-goal third period to take down Nashville in Game One.
After 40 minutes of play, the San Jose Sharks and their fans looked like a frustrated group. They were trailing by one goal and their longtime nemesis Pekka Rinne was stoning them.
However, the Sharks flipped a switch heading into the third period as San Jose used a five-goal explosion in the final 20 minutes to take Game 1 by a 5-2 final.
It was a very slow start in this one as each team took the first 10 minutes or so to feel the other one out. There was a lot of cutting down time and space in the neutral zone with plenty of dump ins that didn’t really amount to much.
Each team’s top lines were the only ones to generate any sort of consistent zone time or dangerous looks as James Neal was flying for the Predators with four shots on goal in the first.
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Despite outshooting San Jose by a 12-11 margin, the Sharks probably had the two best chances when Melker Karlsson had a mini break that was stopped by Rinne before a Nashville defensemen took out the goal before Karlsson could deposit the rebound. The play was reviewed but was rightly called no goal.
Joe Pavelski also had a golden chance, but couldn’t quite corral a bouncing puck as he missed high and wide on the short side.
The second period saw more of the same as the Predators continued their shutdown, grinding style of play in the middle frame. The Sharks had trouble connecting any string of passes together which greatly slowed their attack.
The difference was a bad offensive zone penalty from Matt Nieto that gave the Predators their second opportunity of the game. After San Jose did a nice job of limiting the Nashville attack, Ryan Johansen made a nice cross-ice feed to Mike Fisher who wired one past Martin Jones to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
It was a perfectly placed shot from Fisher and a debilitating one from a Sharks perspective after Nashville went 1-for-26 in their first round series with the man advantage.
However, this whole game would flip on its head in the third period as San Jose came at the Predators in waves who looked like a tired group.
First, team teal would tie the game on the power play as Tomas Hertl took a feed from Joel Ward and snuck one short side on Rinne just 2:37 into the final frame.
From there, San Jose would ride the wave of momentum and continue to push the pace against this Nashville group. Tommy Wingels almost gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead midway through the third when his shot snuck through Rinne but hit the far post and stopped right on the goal line.
A breakthrough for San Jose felt inevitable, and it would come from the Sharks best line of the night. After a bad Predators line change, Joonas Donskoi fed Ward who made a beautiful deke around Rinne before tucking it in to give the Sharks their first lead of the year against the Predators.
Words can’t really describe the great move by Ward, whose line would then draw a high-sticking penalty late in the third period to send the Sharks lethal power play back on the ice.
San Jose went right to work as Pavelski made a beautiful little backhand feed to a cutting Couture who tipped one over the glove of Rinne for the game-winning tally as the Shark Tank was absolutely rocking.
Nashville would get a late goal off a double deflection off Burns and then the face of Ryan Johansen to cut the deficit to one with 1:49 remaining, but a pair of empty-net goals from Couture and Wingels would seal the victory for San Jose.
Once again, the Sharks showed what a resilient group they have as past San Jose teams might not have found a way past Rinne. However, this group stuck with the game plan and finished their opportunities to take an early series lead.
Nashville made this a difficult game through the neutral zone, and you can expect more of the same from this Preds team as the series goes along. What goes unnoticed is this Sharks defense is doing a great job of their own of limiting the quality scoring chances against.
With the amount of rest and facing a tired team, San Jose needed this win. They responded with a big effort in the third and improved to 5-1 thus far in these playoffs.
Game 2 is set for Sunday night as team teal looks to build off their third-period effort and put the Predators in a 2-0 nothing hole before things shift back to Music City.