By: Nick Lanciani
The San Jose Sharks rallied in the third period on Friday night to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on home ice in Game 1 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. Martin Jones made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% en route to the win, while Pekka Rinne made 33 saves on 36 shots against for a .917 SV% in the loss.
Friday night began just the third postseason meeting between the Sharks and the Predators in Stanley Cup Playoff history. San Jose defeated Nashville in five games in the first round in both the 2006 and 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Heading into Game 1, Nashville defeated San Jose two out of the three times they played one another during the regular season.
Craig Smith was out of the lineup for Nashville and Eric Nystrom was in his place instead.
Almost five minutes into the first period, Melker Karlsson shot the puck wide of the goal that had just been dismounted by a crashing Predators defenseman. The play was reviewed to determine if the puck would have gone in the net, had it not been knocked off of its moorings. After some deliberation, the refs determined there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the ice, which was no goal, and thus the game remained scoreless.
Karlsson would be involved yet another situation with a ref when he was called for tripping Nashville’s Filip Forsberg at 10:52 of the first period. The Preds were unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
After twenty minutes of play, the Predators were leading in shots on goal (12-11) and giveaways (5-4), while the Sharks led in hits (18-14), takeaways (7-4) and blocked shots (7-3). Both teams won nine faceoffs in the first period.
Matt Nieto put Nashville on the power play early in the second period when he was given a minor penalty for tripping Colin Wilson 2:45 into the 2nd.
Just as the power play was about to expire, Mike Fisher capitalized on the man advantage with his 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fisher’s goal was assisted by Ryan Johansen (3) and Mattias Ekholm (1) at 4:33 of the 2nd period and gave the Predators a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Almost a minute later, Eric Nystrom provided San Jose with their first power play of the night when he was sent to the penalty box for interfering with Brenden Dillon. The Sharks first attempt on the power play was unsuccessful and yielded no results.
With 40 minutes in the books, Nashville led 1-0 and led in blocked shots 15-11. But for not having played since April 22nd in Game 5 against Los Angeles, the Sharks were beginning to find their legs and led in shots on goal (25-22), hits (36-20), faceoff wins (23-19), giveaways (14-8) and takeaways (11-4) after two periods. Nashville had last played in Game 7 against Anaheim on Wednesday night and began to show signs of fatigue compared to the well-rested Sharks by the end of two.
Just 50 seconds into the 3rd period Ryan Johansen took a holding penalty for tying up Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski, sending San Jose on their second power play of the game.
Tomas Hertl beat Rinne with a wrist shot at 2:37 of the third period on the power play for his 2nd goal of the playoffs and tied the game at 1. Joel Ward (5) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Hertl’s PPG.
With a clear swing in momentum, Ward led a breakout a little past halfway in the third period that resulted in a breakaway and a dangle that led to a backhand goal past Rinne and 2-1 lead for San Jose. Ward’s first goal of the postseason was assisted by Joonas Donskoi (2) and Norris Trophy finalist, Brent Burns (7), at 11:49 of the 3rd.
Calle Jarnkrok was sent to the sin bin for catching Donskoi with a high stick at 15:20 of the third period and the Sharks went to work once again on the ensuing power play. Twenty seconds on the man advantage was all it took for Logan Couture to receive a pass from Pavelski and fire a backhand behind Pekka Rinne. Couture’s 2nd goal of the playoffs gave San Jose a 3-1 lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation. Pavelski (2) and Burns (8) picked up the assists.
When there was less than three minutes remaining in the game, Nashville head coach, Peter Laviolette motioned for Rinne to abandon his net in exchange for an extra attacker. It almost worked in the short run, as Johansen took a puck off his face that deflected past Martin Jones and pulled the Preds to within one at 18:11 of the third period.
The Predators trailed 3-2 with Johansen’s 2nd goal of the 2016 postseason, assisted by Roman Josi (4) and Colin Wilson (4), however they could not keep the Sharks away from pressing in the closing minutes.
Logan Couture found the back of the empty twine just 20 seconds after Johansen scored to put the Sharks back up by two goals. Couture’s 2nd goal of the night and 3rd of the playoffs was unassisted at 18:31 of the period. Tommy Wingels added another empty net goal at 19:10 of the third period to cement the 5-2 victory for San Jose in Game 1. The goal was unassisted and was Wingels first goal of the playoffs.
For the last 50 seconds of the game, Carter Hutton replaced Rinne in net for Nashville in a message that Laviolette was clearly trying to send to his team that they can’t allow five goals in the third period and expect to win (or over rely on their netminder, for that matter).
San Jose tied a franchise playoff record for most goals in a period with their five goal outburst in the third on Friday night. They had also scored five goals in the 2nd period of a 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinal game at Los Angeles.
After the final horn, nearly every skater on the ice participated in some face washing, resulting in numerous penalties to be handed out, officially at 20 minutes of the third period. Roman Polak picked up two roughing minors, while Barret Jackman notched a 10 minute misconduct and two roughing minors himself. As well, Colton Sissons was handed two roughing minor penalties of his own at the conclusion of the game.
With their pleasantries exchanged, the Sharks went on to celebrate their win in Game 1, while the Predators sulked off the ice, soundly beaten.
San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-31), hits (42-32), faceoff wins (34-29), giveaways (18-13) and takeaways (15-6), while Nashville ended the night leading in blocked shots (25-15). The Predators were 1/2 on the power play in Game 1 and the Sharks finished 2/3 on the man advantage.
Game 2 is on Sunday night at 8 PM EST at the SAP Center in San Jose, California and can be seen on NBCSN in the United States and on CBC and TVA Sports in Canada.