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Sharks, Predators OT thriller intensifies NHL playoff series

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Sharks, Predators OT thriller intensifies NHL playoff series

Saturday’s Game 5 of this Western Conference semifinal series is brought to you by LeadLegs.com, the place you go to when you want to see athletes who would pay big money to trade their lungs and legs for yours.

The Nashville Predators needed three overtimes and Mike Fisher (formerly “married to Carrie Underwood” and now “Carrie Underwood, who is married to Mike Fisher”) to out-endure the San Jose Sharks, 4-3, in a game that finally imprints each team on the minds of the opposing fan bases, as in “remember the time when . . .”

You see, multiple overtimes of anything are heroin for viewers, and hell on players, and frankly, if you had the choice between entertained and worrying about players; welfare, you’d have stopped watching football decades ago.

Thus, the Preds and Sharks put on a sensational show which will enervate them both for Game 5 Saturday night in San Jose -– almost a doubleheader, followed by a 1,800-mile plane trip.

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Preds outlast Sharks in 3OT, series tied 2-2]

And if you’re into history as the predictor for the future, the winners of nine of the last 11 triple-or-more-overtime games lost their next game -– sometimes in overtime. And if you’re really into history that has no value whatsoever, Thursday’s game was also the first time in five that a triple-overtime game did not involve the Chicago Blackhawks.

The real point, though, is that hockey is an unforgiving game sport that demands the exertion that Nashville and San Jose spent Thursday be replicated two nights later, and though that isn’t likely, they’ll be willing to play three more overtimes trying.

And they’ll spend precious little time either gloating over or whining about the non-goal by Joe Pavelski in the first overtime that forced the next two. Getting screwed is a constant feeling in hockey -– from the pass that doesn’t hit the boards just right to the rut that catches the skate at the wrong time to the bad change to the crossbar to the penalty that isn’t called or the non-penalty that is. In the immortal words of Al Swearengen, Patron Saint To Us All, “Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair or f------ beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man . . . and give some back.”

Oh, and “Don’t forget to finish your checks.”

That’s the beauty here –- that the reward for playing all night is almost always the right to play some more. San Jose, oddly, is one of the few that didn’t get to do that, having lost the deciding game of the 2008 Western Conference semis in four overtimes at Dallas. And that was after the Sharks won Game 5 in overtime at San Jose.

See how this works? It’s a diabolical world out there, and what you got (other than the despicable bleatings of people back east who had “go to bed” or some equally snivelly nonsense) is a series that you’re suddenly more interested in, one that suddenly grabbed your interest because of what you saw Thursday.

In other words, if you didn’t go to bed, you are a full-fledged adult and better class of person than the Twitter narcoleptics who couldn’t endure an extra hour on the couch, or the bar stool -- just as the Predators and Sharks are better for this experience.

The Predators, we will grant you, better still. Now let’s see if these two teams have the human dignity, intellectual honesty and just plain gumption to do what the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs did in 2003 -– go two overtimes in Game 3, then three overtimes in Game 4, and two more in Game 6.

Now those guys gave a damn, by cracky.

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.


Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.