SAN JOSE Even after blowing a two-goal third period lead, the Sharks were still in prime position to beat the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
On a Sharks power play with regulation time winding down, Joe Pavelski found himself alone with the puck, staring at a wide-open net. He quickly fired, only to be denied by the speedy right pad of Pekka Rinne with less than 30 seconds left in the third period.
That save allowed the Predators to prevail in overtime, 4-3, when David Legwand scored his second goal of the night on a backhanded feed from Francis Bouillon.
From what I saw, it was open, said Pavelski, who scored his ninth goal of the season in the second period. I couldnt really get it up at the time, just tried to get it on net. A few inches over, its in, but hes big and makes those saves pretty often. Its tough.
While Rinne was busy being his typical spectacular self, Antti Niemi, who was pulled just 2:07 into Thursday night's match against Pittsburgh, struggled for the second straight game. He surrendered back-to-back goals by Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Suter in the third period, and a 3-1 Sharks lead was history.
First, Predators defenseman Shea Weber floated a wrist shot on net, and Niemi allowed it to sneak through his five hole after it was deflected on the way. Hornqvist, who originally got a piece of the shot, was there to knock it in at 2:57.
A power play goal was the equalizer, when Patrick Marleau was in the box on an interference minor. Suters wrist shot from the high slot found daylight over Niemis right shoulder, on what was a very stoppable shot with 14:02 left in regulation.
Niemi admitted he was a bit disoriented just before Suter gained possession.
I lost the pass a little bit from the boards, he said. It took awhile to find the puck, then when I found it, it was already on the way. A little late there.
The loss cant be pinned entirely on Niemi, though.
The Sharks seemed to be in command when Logan Couture chipped in a lively bounce off of the back boards on a planned play when Pavelski fired it into the zone. A rare misplay by Rinne, who was caught leaning the wrong way as if to play the puck behind the boards, seemed to indicate it was San Joses night despite what was otherwise a strong performance by the goaltender.
The Predators turned up the energy on the forecheck, though, and the Sharks were suddenly on their heels. Hornqvists goal, his sixth in the last five games, was the turning point.
They are a very persistent team. Thats a quality that they have, said Todd McLellan. They werent going away, and we talked about it between periods. That second goal changed the tide.
We were up 3-1, and right after the third goal we kind of stopped playing, said Marty Havlat. They were the better team in the third period. They kept battling and kept putting pucks behind us and forechecking us, and we were a little slow with the passes and werent that sharp after our third goal, the way we wanted to be.
The loss was especially disheartening in that the Sharks achieved a strong start after a brutal first 20 minutes against the Penguins. They outshot the Predators 18-7 and dominated territorially, even though they couldnt solve Rinne, who made some key saves on Brad Winchester, and then Marleau and Dan Boyle on a Sharks power play.
If you give that start to us night in and night out, were going to win a few games in the first period, said Pavelski.
The effort tonight was much better than it was against Pittsburgh, said McLellan, who appeared much more annoyed after Thursdays win than he did the loss to Nashville. A couple mistakes led to goals. I think we can clean that up.
The Predators got the games first goal early in the second. A shot from the point by Legwand was headed wide of the net, but it bounced off of Torrey Mitchell and behind Niemi at 1:02.
The lead didnt last, as the Sharks tied it on a highlight-reel passing play. After Joe Thornton fought to bring the puck into the zone, he found Couture in the faceoff circle. Couture gathered the puck, spun around and whipped a backhanded pass through the slot to an open Pavelski, whose one-timer sailed past Rinne at 4:40.
A power play goal gave San Jose its first lead of the game. After a scramble in front of the net the puck ended up on the stick of Havlat, who roofed it over a fallen Rinne, who had lost track of the puck.
It was Havlats first goal as a Shark.
Its nice to get a goal, but unfortunately it didnt help to win the game, said Havlat. Id rather not score and win the game.
San Jose went to the power play with 1:04 remaining in regulation, when Jonathon Blum was called for hooking. After Rinnes save on Pavelski, it carried over to overtime, but San Jose was unable to generate any more prime scoring chances.
It cost them, when Legwand got position on Pavelski in front of the net, and ended it at 2:53.
We needed on one the power play there at the end and got a couple good looks, but didnt get what we wanted, said McLellan.
Odds and ends: The Sharks fell to 3-5 when allowing the first goal of the game. Colin White was back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch on Thursday. He was paired with Justin Braun as the teams third defense pair. McLellan generally stuck with the line combinations that the team was practicing the last two days. Thornton was between Couture and Pavelski, while Marleau skated with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell. Havlat was with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn. The Sharks were 35-for-58 in the faceoff circle.