Nashville Predators Finally Break Through to Beat San Jose Sharks

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 10: Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks checks Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 10, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 10: Evander Kane #9 of the San Jose Sharks checks Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 10, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After grinding away for much of the game, the Nashville Predators kept the pressure on before finally taking over. They win the season series.

This was one of those games where you just have to keep grinding away and not let up. The entire game I knew the Nashville Predators would eventually seize the control of the game if they kept doing what they were doing.

With this win over the San Jose Sharks, the Predators have now won five of eight and gotten points in seven of eight games. Their only lopsided loss came on the back end of a back-to-back on the road against the Florida Panthers to round out November.

The Predators have appeared to have fixed some of the defensive issues that were plaguing them in November. They’re playing tighter defense, improving on the power play and making it tougher on opponents to get easy shots on Nashville goaltenders.

How it unfolded

Let’s start with Juuse Saros. This guy has been on fire basically since the previous time these two teams met back on November 9th, which ended in a shootout loss for the Predators. In that one, Saros gave up just one regulation goal and it took seven rounds in the shootout for the Sharks to claim the two points.

This one went in similar fashion for the first two periods. The Predators had plenty of great scoring chances that nearly ended in goals, but Martin Jones and the Sharks figured out ways to dodge those bullets and keep the score knotted at zero.

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Saros wasn’t tested much at all in the first period as San Jose struggled to find much offensive pressure. Their xGF, or expected goals for, was a measly 0.39 according to NaturalStatTrick.

The second period is when Saros had to be sharp, and the game’s momentum started tilting towards the Sharks. This was the period where the Predators had to survive, and figure out way to keep the composure. Neither team kept their cool as there were incredibly 13 penalties called between the two teams.

Saros stopped all ten San Jose shots as the Sharks easily won the period. Much like the first period the Sharks were lucky to keep the score tied at zero, the same can be said about the Predators in the second period.

The period ended with a huge scrum after the whistle, and a brawl between Austin Watson and Evander Kane. Both players got their punches in, and the referees seemed to have lost some control of the flow of the game. You have two desperate teams tying to not fall back any further in the playoff chase.

The Predators would finally get the first strike as Nick Bonino scores his team-leading 12th goal of the season. Who would’ve guess Bonino would be leading the team in goals at this point in December and be igniting the team’s third line?

A few minutes after that, Filip Forsberg would slash on a San Jose breakaway attempt, and a penalty shot was given. This comes at a point in the game when the Predators are doing everything they can to cling onto the one-goal lead.

Once again, Saros comes up big and stops the penalty shot. Not only does he stop the shot, but he ignited the Predators fans and Bridgestone Arena was buzzing like a playoff game.

Quickly after the stopping the penalty shot, the Predators would start taking back control of the action. Ryan Johansen would pound away in front of the net and eventually get the puck past Jones for the two-goal lead. This comes via the power play, which has struggled greatly as of late.

San Jose would pull the goalie with over two minutes remaining and get one back to spoil Saros’ shutout. They never posed any kind of a threat after that, and Calle Jarnkrok would salt it away with the empty net goal.

Our stars of the game

Saros natually gets the top star. One thing keeping the Predators down for so long was inconsistent goaltending. He may have only made 24 saves, but many of those were critical saves in critical moments. He was huge tonight and has been playing very well lately.

My second star goes to Ryan Johansen for scoring that insurance goal. He didn’t give up on the puck and eventually got it past Jones. That was the theme of this entire game. Grinding away and sticking to your gameplan.

Third star goes to Filip Forsberg for tallying the two assists and posting a Corsi percentage of 63.6. He controlled the possession well and played a physical style that was required for this game. He may have saved a goal by committing the slashing penalty and giving Saros a chance to stop it on the penalty shot.

This was an excellent team win. Everyone did their part. Other notables who had really solid games were Mikael Granlund, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith and Ryan Ellis. They all contributed in big ways and kept the offensive pressure on San Jose.

It’s nice to see the Predators winning games like this again. Games where they keep chopping away and wearing a team down before they finally take over. Far too many times last month they were getting caught up in track meets and falling behind the 8-ball early in the game.

With the win the Predators are 14-10-5 and seven points out of the top-three in the Central Division. More importantly, they’re four points behind Vegas for the final wildcard spot.

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Their next game comes on the road against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. They have to keep finding ways to get points and avoid another losing streak to keep pace with the rest of the division.