Pekka Rinne and the Predator defense were the stars of the game as the Nashville Predators beat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 and swept the three California teams on the road for only the second time in team history. It was the Preds fifth straight win.
Rinne faced 43 Shark shots and stopped all but one. Equally as impressive was the Predator defense blocking another 22 shots. Altogether, San Jose threw a remarkable 81 shots at the Nashville net.
David Legwand had an unassisted goal in the first period and Sergei Kostitsyn had the game winner in the third and that was all the offense the Preds needed. Logan Couture had the lone goal for the Sharks in the second stanza.
Antti Niemi was the hard luck loser for the Sharks. As usual, Niemi's inability to control rebounds was his downfall as both Predator goals were on misplaced rebounds.
The contest opened with sharp skating and plenty of shots by both teams. The Predators got on the board first at 13:10 in the first period when Legwand shot from the right faceoff circle, then crashed the net, corralled his own rebound, and then put it past Niemi for an unassisted goal to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.
The real star of the opening period was Rinne who stopped all 18 Shark shots, many of which were quality scoring chances. The Preds managed 12 shots and were more than doubled in the Corsi 32-15.
The Sharks came back and tied the game 1-1 at 4:35 in the second. The Preds got caught with too many men deep and the Sharks had a 2 on 1 on Franson. Couture kept the puck on the rush and got a shot on Rinne that beat him on the high glove side.
The Predators were fortunate to come out of the second period still tied as San Jose was out working the Preds. The Sharks had won 26 of 42 face offs over two periods and led in shots 11-6 and the Corsi 19-13 for the middle stanza.
In the third period, Kostitsyn extended his goal streak to five games at 6:23 to put the Preds up 2-1. Kostitsyn started the play from the right corner beside Marcel Goc who passed the puck to Patric Hornqvist who shot at the net. Kostitsyn rushed the net from the side, picked up the rebound, and lifted it over Niemi for the goal.
With 1:36 left, Niemi left the ice and San Jose intensified the pressure on the Preds net. Twelve seconds later, the Sharks called a time out to plot the final strategy. In one final flurry, Couture hit the crossbar with 10 seconds left but the puck was cleared and the Preds sealed the victory.
For the third period, the Sharks out shot the Preds once again, 14-8 and led the Corsi 30-16.
There were only two penalties called in the game, both on the Predators. The Sharks were not whistled for any infractions for the evening.
With 4:12 left in the game, Marek Svatos appears to have joined the list of fallen Predators when he slid into the boards with his legs spread and left the ice, appearing to have a groin pull.
Andreas Thuresson played his first game of the year for the Preds. taking Nick Spaling's place on a defensive line with Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson. He played 18 shifts with 14:05 minutes of play. He led bot teams in hits with six.
The game was the halfway point of the season for the Predators as the finished the evening with 50 points and in fourth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
The Predators returned to Nashville after the game and will have Sunday off before returning to the Bridgestone Arena to face the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass