By: Nick Lanciani
Joe Pavelski put the San Jose Sharks ahead 2-1 before Joe Thornton scored an empty net goal to make it 3-1 (before Nashville scored a goal with 3.6 seconds left to make it 3-2), as the Sharks beat the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoff Second Round matchup on Sunday night at SAP Center in San Jose, California.
That’s a long winded way of saying that the Sharks have a 2-0 series lead over the Predators after winning 3-2 on Sunday night, but hey, I forced the pun in the title to work, so I forced everything to work in the lede.
Martin Jones made 37 saves on 39 shots faced for a .949 SV% en route to the win, while Pekka Rinne made just 22 saves on 24 shots on goal for a .917 SV% in the loss.
No goals were scored in the first period, but both teams got a chance to test out their power play units as Roman Josi took the game’s first penalty 6:24 into the first period for cross checking San Jose’s, Chris Tierney. Joel Ward later tripped Craig Smith at 13:38 of the first period and gave Nashville their first power play opportunity of the night.
Heading into the first intermission scoreless, the Predators were outshooting the Sharks 10-7, as well as leading in hits (19-7), giveaways (9-5) and blocked shots (10-5). San Jose led in faceoff wins (11-8) and takeaways (4-1) after twenty minutes of play.
To his credit, Rinne made a series of spectacular saves early in the second period, including one where we brushed the puck aside with nearly the blade of his skate.
The Sharks were caught with too many men on the ice at 15:16 of the 2nd period and Joonas Donskoi served the bench minor as San Jose successfully made the kill. A few minutes later, the Predators were guilty of having too many men on the ice and sent Victor Arvidsson to the box to serve the bench minor.
Thirty-three seconds into the ensuing power play, Logan Couture found the back of the net for his 4th goal of the postseason and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead on a power play goal. Couture’s slap shot beat Rinne and was assisted by Brent Burns (9) and Joe Thornton (3) at 18:36 of the 2nd period and was enough to give San Jose a lead heading into the second intermission.
Brenden Dillon was sent to the box a little over six-and-a-half minutes into the third period for roughing and gave Nashville a chance on the extra man advantage. A Shea Weber rocket on the ensuing power play caught Sharks defenseman, Marc-Eouard Vlasic right in the visor between the eyes and stopped play for a minute or two as Vlasic gathered himself, stood up and skated off on his own power, in what was clearly another example of why helmets and visors are important in hockey at the NHL level.
The Predators were unable to convert on their final power play of the night and the Sharks continued to lead 1-0 as the third period marched on.
Mattias Ekholm tied the game, 1-1, on a snap shot that beat San Jose goaltender, Martin Jones, at 12:56 of the 3rd.
Ekholm’s 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Colin Wilson (5) and Roman Josi (5).
But it didn’t take long before Joe Pavelski found a way to beat Rinne for his 6th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to put the Sharks back into the lead, 2-1. Pavelski received a pass from Matt Nieto and slapped the puck past Rinne at 17:20 of the 3rd period, sending the fans at SAP Center into a frenzy as their captain came in clutch once again. Nieto (1) and Thornton (3) assisted on the goal.
The Predators promptly pulled their goalie for an extra skater with around two minutes remaining in the game.
Thornton received a pass from Couture and fired a wrist shot into the empty net to put the Sharks ahead by two and give San Jose a 3-1 lead with under a minute remaining in regulation. Thornton’s 2nd goal of the postseason was assisted by Couture (6) and Pavelski (4) at 19:04 of the 3rd period. Pavelski earned his third point of the night and thus had his 6th career three-point game in the postseason— the most in San Jose Sharks playoff history, per Elias Sports.
With the clock winding down and a mad battle for the puck in front of Jones, Ryan Johansen found a gap and pushed the puck to the twine with a slap shot for his 3rd goal of the playoffs at 19:56 of the 3rd period. Johansen’s goal pulled the Predators to within a goal as the Sharks lead was cut to 3-2. Josi (6) and Mike Fisher (1) assisted on the goal.
At the final horn the Sharks had won Game 2 by a score of 3-2 and finished the night leading in faceoff wins (32-30), takeaways (9-5) and blocked shots (25-24). Nashville ended the night leading in shots on goal (39-25), hits (46-26) and giveaways (20-13). The Preds finished the night 0/3 on the power play, while the Sharks ended the night 1/2 on the man advantage.
San Jose now has a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The game will be on USA Network in the United States at 9:00 PM EST and on SN360 and TVA Sports in Canada.