The Nashville Predators scored four unanswered goals to notch a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 3, their first victory of the series.
The Sharks seemingly picked up right where they left off following a pair of wins at home. After weathering an initial burst of energy from the Predators, forward Patrick Marleau broke into the zone with terrific speed and caught goalie Pekka Rinne fishing at 13:13 in the first. From there, however, Nashville played like a team with its back against the wall. The Predators converted a power play thanks to a James Neal one-timer at 5:11 in the second. They then took the lead late in the period on a Shea Weber slap shot. Goals from Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg in the third sealed the win.
Here are three thoughts on Game 3:
Preds’ special teams show life
Entering this game, the Predators had two power play goals in 31 chances in these playoffs. Part of that had to do with running up against the Ducks and their top-ranked penalty kill in the first round. But as I wrote in my series preview, Nashville’s special teams would need to step up to match San Jose’s lethal power play. The Preds got a golden opportunity to get their man-advantage unit on track early in the second period when Joonas Donskoi took a high-sticking double-minor against Neal. And while it took them some time, a great display of puck-handling from Mattias Ekholm led to Neal’s bad-angle dart.
Then, late in the third period on the power play, Forsberg scored the sealing goal with a signature snipe off the post and in. The goal was an important one for Forsberg, who hadn't scored since the opening game of the first round.
Equally important in this game was a Nashville penalty kill that went 4-for-4. The Predators forwards got out to San Jose's dangerous point-shooters, Brent Burns especially, and made diving plays to clear the zone.
Preds played well at even strength too
After Neal's power play goal, the ice tilted heavily in the Preds' favor. That led to another power play for Nashville, and, after an offensive zone penalty to Craig Smith, a four-on-four opportunity. Often this season the team's heavily-structured five-on-five system has caused its four-on-four and three-on-three play to be a liability. But on this occasion, Ryan Johansen and the rejuvenated Wilson used their big frames and puck-handling skills to gain entry into the offensive zone and create space for Weber to get his notoriously heavy slap shot off.
At various times in this series, both teams have shown an ability to dominate stretches of five-on-five play. After Nashville's early second-period push, however, the teams tightened up considerably. That style may in the long run favor the Sharks, who have more offensive players capable of making a play to create a goal. Tonight's biggest game-breaker was Marleau, who made Weber and Rinne look bad on San Jose’s only goal.
Martin Jones was better than his stats
Ryan Johansen, Anthony Bitteto, Roman Josi, and Mike Fisher (twice) all failed to convert point-blank chances in the first two periods. Jones allowed four goals, but all of them basically fell into the no-one-would-save-that category. Neal, Forsberg, and Weber got off heavy shots and picked the corners. Wilson scored on a rebound. There's no reason for Sharks coach Peter DeBoer to even think about turning to backup James Reimer at this point.