NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nashville Predators finally figured out how to shut down the NHL’s best road team and a pretty potent power play. As a result, they have given themselves a chance to tie their second-round series.
James Neal and Filip Forsberg each scored on the power play, Colin Wilsonhad a goal, and Pekka Rinne made 26 saves for Nashville. The Predators killed four penalties after the Sharks went 3-for-5 on the man advantage in the first two games. Nashville also went 2-for-5 on the power play after being 2-for-31 this postseason.
“It’s something we definitely need to be better at,” Neal said of both the penalty kill and the power play. “I thought we had some decent looks, but ultimately, it changes games when you score on the PP and you get big kills. We did that tonight and got a big win.”
Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks, who lost away from San Jose for the first time this postseason and for the first time since a loss at Arizona on March 17.
Game 4 will be Thursday.
The Predators not only lost the first two in San Jose but also were facing the NHL’s best regular-season road team. The Sharks went 4-2 in Nashville in winning first-round series in both 2006 and 2007. Nashville has not lost a game in regulation on home ice to San Jose since Feb. 25, 2012, with the lone defeat in seven games a shootout loss April 2.
“You’re not going to win every game,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. This might take seven games. It’s that time of year. They’re a good team. You have to give them credit. I thought we came out and played a pretty good game. They won the special-teams battle tonight. We won it the other night. That’s how this works this time of year.”
Predators coach Peter Laviolette switched up his lineup and said he wanted more speed. Pontus Aberg made his NHL debut in place of Mike Ribeiro, who was a healthy scratch. Ribeiro had only one assist in nine postseason games and a minus-3 rating. Laviolette put Craig Smith, Forsberg andRyan Johansen together on the top line and moved Neal with Mike Fisherand Wilson.
“It’s a big piece to bite off for him, and I thought he did a really good job,” Laviolette said of Aberg.
For a little extra mojo, the Predators brought Tennessee Titans quarterbackMarcus Mariota onto the ice before the puck dropped to rally the fans. The Sharks scored first. Marleau got the puck and skated past the Nashville defense for an easy wrister into an open net and caught Rinne too far from the crease at 13:13.
San Jose failed to convert on two man-advantages in the period. In the second, Sharks right wing Joonas Donskoi got a double-minor for high-sticking Neal at 2:19. Neal finally scored on the power play at 5:11 with a one-timer from the edge of the right circle off a pass from Mattias Ekholm. The Sharks called the penalty a momentum changer.
“He’s not bleeding much, just has a little scrape on his lip,” Sharks forwardJoe Pavelski said of Neal. “There’s nothing you could do about that, I guess.”
With Matt Nieto in the box for hooking Johansen, Smith joined him a minute later, which set up 60 seconds of 4-on-4 play.
Weber gave the Predators their first lead since the opening goal of Game 1, with a blast from the slot that beat Martin Jones high to his glove side with 13 seconds left in 4-on-4. Nashville killed off the ensuing power play.
“The biggest thing for us is staying out of the box and staying disciplined, but when we do get called upon, we’ve got to make a difference,” Weber said.
Nashville forward Colton Sissons had to be helped off the ice at 6:09 of the third after his left knee crashed into the post while he was chasing down a loose puck. No penalty was called, and he went to the locker room. An X-ray was negative, and Sissons actually skated a shift late in the game.
Wilson then padded the Predators’ lead at 6:55 by scoring off the rebound of Ryan Ellis‘ shot. Forsberg added his power-play goal and just his second goal of the postseason at 15:49.
Weber’s goal tied him with David Legwand for most in Nashville postseason history, with 13. Weber reached that mark in his 55th game, while Legwand did so in 47. … The Sharks now are 5-4 in Game 3s when leading a series 2-0. The loss snapped a streak of three straight wins in such situations.