The Predators have perfected the art of the dramatic overtime win at home, as Viktor Arvidsson's heroics force a Game 7 against the Sharks.
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The Predators haven’t figured out how to beat the Sharks on the road this spring, but they have perfected the art of the dramatic overtime win in front of their home fans. Viktor Arvidsson’s backhander beat San Jose goalie Martin Jones 2:03 into the extra period to lift Nashville to a 4–3 victory, forcing a Game 7 on Thursday night in San Jose.
Chris Tierney scored a pair of first-period goals to put the Predators in an early 2–0 hole, but a Roman Josi backhand bounced its way through traffic and past Jones to cut the Predators’ deficit in half with just under five minutes to go in the first period. Ryan Johansen tied things up at the tail end of the extended 4-on-4 play that opened the second.
After the Sharks used their lethal power play to retake the lead in the third period on Logan Couture’s sixth goal of the postseason, the Predators pulled level again at 12:44 of the final frame with Colin Wilson’s fifth playoff goal coming at the end of some beautiful cross-ice passing. Just as both teams were settling in for another long overtime slog, Arvidsson jumped on a misplayed puck at the feet of Sharks forward Melker Karlsson and found the top right corner with his shot from the left face-off dot to even the series.
Three thoughts from Game 6:
Arvidsson looks at home in Preds' top six
Arvidsson took Craig Smith’s place on the line anchored by Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen and did not shrink from the marquee billing. His 15:50 of ice time on Monday night was his fourth-highest total of the entire season (he played just 21 minutes of the Game 4 marathon four days ago), and he supplied the same strong forecheck and relentless energy he had been relied upon for when he was farther down the Predators’ depth chart earlier in this series.
The 23-year-old Swede should find himself with another heavy workload when Nashville puts its season on the line once again in San Jose as coach Peter Laviolette continues to search for ways to jump-start his other three forward lines to support the tireless production of Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and James Neal.
Sharks don’t need to worry about offensive lull
The Sharks got their early spark from an unlikely source in Tierney, the 21-year-old center who had entered Game 6 with just two shots all series. With San Jose’s top line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl neutralized once again by Nashville’s top D-pairing of Josi and Shea Weber, the line Tierney centered with Joel Ward and Matt Nieto (who was later replaced by Nick Spaling) was the beneficiary of the Sharks’ early strategy of sending in shots from the point.
Tierney, who was moved up to center the third line when Sharks coach Pete DeBoer shuffled lines before Game 5, redirected a soft wrister from Marc-Edouard Vlasic through traffic and under the arm of Pekka Rinne to get the visitors on the board at 9:55 of the first. Less than two minutes later, Brent Burns tossed another shot toward Rinne from the blue line, and Tierney swooped in to clean up a juicy rebound after Ward and Nieto sent the Predators into scramble mode with their work in front of the net.
The Predators held Pavelski, Thornton and Hertl to just one shot each, two days after that line finished with 10 and a pair of Pavelski goals in San Jose’s Game 5 rout. The glaring difference in the three games of this series that took place in Nashville was Laviolette’s ability to keep Josi and Weber on the Sharks’ heavy hitters. In Game 7, San Jose won’t have that problem—their stars should be freed up to spend more time controlling the tempo as they did in Game 5.
Neal makes things happen
Once again, the Fisher-Neal-Wilson line turned in Nashville’s most complete performance, but Neal took over Game 6. He was on the ice for all three Predators goals in regulation: His takeaway and subsequent net drive set up the confusion in front that allowed Josi’s opening goal to find its way through, he was the other forward on the ice for Johansen’s 4-on-4 game-tying goal, and he put Wilson in position to force OT with a perfectly timed pass once he had drawn the complete attention of three Sharks defenders.
The Predators are still searching for answers in San Jose, but after tallying the primary assist on Nashville’s lone Game 5 goal and starring in a do-or-die Game 6, Neal figures to be the most important piece of the puzzle.