Blood in the water: Sharks look to close out Predators, clinch West final berth
The San Jose Sharks gave a championship-caliber response to a potentially devastating defeat.
And if they can recapture their past success on the road, they’ll be playing for a Western Conference title.
In a second-round series where both teams have successfully defended home ice, the Sharks hope to break that trend and eliminate the Nashville Predators in Monday night’s crucial Game 6.
San Jose wasn’t shaken by consecutive losses in Nashville, most notably Thursday’s 4-3 triple-overtime heart-breaker in Game 4 that evened the series. The Sharks proceeded to dominate the final two periods of Saturday’s 5-1 rout to move one win from their first conference final since 2011.
The Sharks scored four answered goals after Nashville’s Mike Fisher briefly forged a 1-all tie late in the first period, with Joe Pavelski answering less than two minutes later and Logan Couture converting a back-breaking breakaway 35 seconds into the second.
Pavelski added a power-play goal later in the second for his eighth of this postseason. The San Jose captain had one disallowed on goaltender interference during the first overtime of Game 4, in which the Sharks owned a 25-18 shot advantage after regulation.
“The guys really wanted it. We felt after that last game we played a couple really good periods, some of our better periods of the playoffs,” he said. “We had to carry that. It was up to us to really get that momentum back. Guys did a good job coming out.”
A successful line shuffle also helped the Sharks regain the upper hand. Moved to the wing alongside Couture and Joonas Donskoi, Patrick Marleau recorded a goal and an assist after being held to one point over the previous four games.
“I thought it was Patty’s best game of the series, and that line was excellent all night,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “Some changes work, and (Saturday) that change worked.”
Saturday’s result may prompt Peter Laviolette do so some tinkering, as Nashville hasn’t received much production beyond the line of Game 4 hero Fisher, James Neal and Colin Wilson. Filip Forsberg has particularly struggled, managing one goal with a minus-8 rating for the series.
Laviolette did re-insert Mike Ribeiro into the lineup after making him a healthy scratch in Games 3 and 4. The veteran center has just one assist in 10 games this postseason.
The Predators can draw confidence from their resilient showing in the opening round, where they rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to oust Anaheim. Nashville was also blown out on the road in Game 5 of that matchup before regrouping for a 3-1 win at home.
“We’ve been in this position before, backs against the wall,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “It usually brings out the best in people. “It did last series, hopefully it does for us this time.”
Pekka Rinne certainly came through in the Anaheim series, stopping 62 of 64 shots in the final two wins. He was outstanding as well in Nashville’s two home victories of this one, registering 26 saves in Tuesday’s 4-1 victory in Game 3 and 44 in Thursday’s thriller.
San Jose has lost in eight of its last nine visits to Bridgestone Arena, though it posted a league-best 28-10-3 road record during the regular season and won all three games at Los Angeles in the first round.
The Sharks’ power play hasn’t been quite as potent away from home during these playoffs, however. San Jose, which led the NHL with 62 power-play goals during the regular season, is 7 for 17 on home ice and 3 for 21 on the road. The Sharks went 1 for 9 in the two losses in Nashville.