For the second time in four games, Pekka Rinne was perfect in the Nashville Predators net. That marked the second time in three games the slumping San Jose Sharks were shut out through regulation and overtime. It was also their sixth consecutive loss after starting the season 7-0-0.
The Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne continued his excellent level of play tonight against the Sharks. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
The Sharks came out strong in the first period and, in a familiar refrain, outshot Nashville 13-3. Many of the shots came from the outside but Pekka Rinne made several big saves on Tim Kennedy, who was playing his first game of the season, and TJ Galliardi. Despite being outshot heavily, the Preds didn’t sit back on their heels. They played aggressive hockey and took the game to the Sharks whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Rinne looked close to unbeatable from the very beginning, which was a good thing because the second period would descend into penalty madness for Nashville. The Preds were slapped with six minor penalties – four of them to Martin Erat alone, including a garbage double-minor call for high-sticking that should’ve only been two minutes.
Paul Gaustad’s faceoff and penalty-killing prowess were key to the Nashville Predators’ win tonight. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
Other than Erat’s call for holding Brad Stuart’s stick and Colin Wilson’s tripping call on T.J. Galliardi, all of the penalties came as a result of dictating the game at San Jose’s end of the ice. Yet the Nashville Predators’ penalty killers looked as strong as they have all season, killing off each of the penalties with a little help from Rinne. The Preds also managed to mount serious pressure on the Sharks despite being shorthanded so often, and they outshot San Jose 11-6 in the second period.
The game was knotted at 0-0 as the third period began and Nashville stuck to the same game plan as before – harass the Sharks at every opportunity, take away their space, and look for an opening. They continued to outshoot San Jose – they finished 10-3 for the period – but Antti Niemi held them at bay. The last few minutes of the third period were a wave of pure Nashville attack that couldn’t break down San Jose’s man in net, sending the game to extra time.
In overtime San Jose managed a few chances, including one that was initially saved by Rinne but began dribbling back toward the goal line before being cleared by a quick-thinking Gabriel Bourque.
But a Nashville push back from one of those shots just over two minutes in was all it took to end the game. The final play saw David Legwand take advantage of the extra space in 4-on-4 play and make a nice cross-ice outlet pass to Ryan Ellis, who had enough room in front of him to coast into the San Jose zone. Ellis made a little bit of room for himself with some stickhandling, which also bought time for Colin Wilson time to move down low. A floating shot from Ellis, a rebound from Niemi, and a finish by Wilson at 2:08 gave the crowd at Bridgestone the most satisfying resolution they’ve seen yet this year.
The game finished with both teams even in shots at 25 apiece. Many of Nashville’s came on second-chance opportunities off of rebounds, something that’s been visibly lacking in their game most of the season to date.
Mike Fisher won the battles in his zone tonight. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
Kevin Klein continues to impress on the second pair. He blocked four shots tonight and managed a team-high four shots of his own in 21:34 of ice time, a lot of it on the penalty killing unit.