Nashville handed San Jose their first road loss of these playoffs after dispatching the Sharks in Game 3.
We’ve got a series again.
A determined Nashville Predators squad took the ice on Tuesday night and controlled Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinals series. Despite allowing the first goal, the Predators responded with four unanswered as they downed the San Jose Sharks by a 4-1 final to cut the Sharks lead in half in this second round series.
Nashville came out very strong to begin this game as we all knew they would, and they got a power play opportunity just 1:11 into this one. San Jose’s defense held strong though as the unflappable Martin Jones made some big stops to keep things scoreless.
The Sharks seemed to settle in after that point and they would find the breakthrough off a great individual effort from Patrick Marleau. Marleau used his blazing speed to jet right past Nashville’s best two defensemen in Shea Weber and Roman Josi, before making a simple deke around Pekka Rinne and depositing his second of the playoffs.
The goal was the first opening period tally in this series, but you have to wonder what Rinne was thinking leaving the entire net exposed as he was nowhere close to poke-checking the puck off Marleau.
San Jose would head into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but that would change in the middle frame as Nashville continued to apply pressure against team teal who didn’t handle it well.
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The Predators would get the opportunity they needed when Joonas Donskoi went off on a double-minor for high-sticking on a questionable call. On the ensuing power play, the Sharks did a good job of killing of the first two minutes but couldn’t quite finish the job.
Mattias Ekholm, who’s arguably been Nashville’s best defenseman in this series, skated through the middle of the Sharks defense and fed James Neal from low in the right circle who one-timed a perfect shot high to the glove side on Jones to knot things up at one.
From there it was the Predators who controlled most of the flow as San Jose really struggled to break the puck out of their own zone or connect through the neutral zone.
With the teams skating at four-on-four, team teal would give the puck away at their own blue line. While Brent Burns made a nice poke check off Ryan Johansen, the puck lay there for Shea Weber to step into a blast that beat Jones cleanly with just over five minutes left in the second.
San Jose would have a couple of opportunities late in the middle frame on the power play, but couldn’t find a way past Rinne or the Nashville defense who did a great job of blocking shots in front. The Predators would take a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes, and it was well-deserved as they outplayed the Sharks.
In the final frame, team teal came out with a strong push, and Melker Karlsson nearly tied things early in the period as he poked a puck just wide of the far post that Rinne had lost sight of.
Unfortunately, the lone rush for the Predators resulted in a much needed insurance marker of the home team. Colin Wilson found a streaking Ryan Ellis whose initial shot was stopped by Jones but he lost sight of the puck and it came right to Wilson who banged in his third goal of the playoffs.
It was the first time this postseason that San Jose trailed by more than one goal and things would get worse as Nashville frustrated the Sharks all night. Filip Forsberg would add salt in the wound as he fired home his second of these playoffs, rifling one high glove on Jones once again.
San Jose must now regroup before Game 4 on Thursday night as it’s been two straight games where Nashville has outplayed team teal.
The Sharks are still in a good position, but this game should be a wake up call that the Predators would make things easy for San Jose. The Sharks will have to generate a more consistent offensive attack and be smarter with the puck if they want to take Game 4.