SAN JOSE, Calif. – With their power play clicking for the first time in more than a month, the San Jose Sharks found that early season form that helped them get off to such a fast start.
Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski got San Jose’s struggling power-play unit going with goals that helped the Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Saturday night.
“Without the power play tonight that’s a goose egg and that’s not a good thing,” coach Todd McLellan said. “It came through, and if you can count on your power play for something once every four or five times that would be a really good thing for our team right now.”
The Sharks had converted on just three of their past 62 power-play chances heading into the game, a major reason for a February swoon that featured 10 losses in 12 games.
But with the man-advantage unit clicking as it did in scoring 12 goals the first five games, San Jose again looked like the team that started the lockout-shortened season with a franchise-record seven straight wins in January.
Joe Thornton and Logan Couture assisted on both goals, and Antti Niemi made 18 saves for the Sharks, who moved from a tie for eighth into a tie for fourth in the tightly packed Western Conference, one point ahead of the Predators. San Jose got five out of a possible six points on a three-game homestand after winning just once on a six-game trip.
The Predators were hoping for a better result after practicing on the two off days in San Jose following a 5-1 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday night. Instead they fell for the sixth time in eight games, getting only a short-handed goal by Gabriel Bourque with 5:30 remaining.
“We have to find a way to win games,” defenceman Roman Josi said. “It doesn’t matter if you win them 1-0 or whatever. We just have to outwork the other teams. That’s our game.”
Despite only 12 shots on goal the first two periods, the Predators tested Niemi a few times but he was up to the task. He had made two tough saves to stop Paul Gaustad midway through the second period right before Ryan Ellis was called for tripping Andrew Desjardins in the offensive zone.
The Sharks didn’t wait long to make Nashville pay as Couture poked the puck from behind the net in front, and Pavelski knocked it in before Pekka Rinne even saw it just 16 seconds into the power play to make it 2-0.
“It’s just one of those broken plays you find yourself scoring on so many more times than the nice plays,” Pavelski said. “Cooch kept it alive and Pekks didn’t know where it was back there and it seems to be how you score these days.”
Bourque got the Predators back into it when Matt Irwin failed to keep the puck in at the blue line on the power play. Bourque raced to the loose puck and beat Niemi for the goal.
But Niemi and the Sharks held on for the win.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson criticized his team for passing too much instead of shooting the puck, and the message clearly got through as they put 16 shots on net in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead.
“We knew they were a fast start team,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We knew they were going to throw a lot of pucks at the net. That was stated by their team management and coaches. We had to get through that first period. They jumped on us early and got zone time.”
Rinne stopped all but one but was screened by Pavelski on Boyle’s slapper from the point 19 seconds after Kevin Klein was sent to the penalty box for slashing Logan Couture. The goal was the first for Boyle since the second game of the season and the first for any Sharks defender since Irwin scored on Jan. 26 against Edmonton.
“I’m just glad I got it through,” Boyle said. “It’s been tough this year getting the pucks through. We got a break. I think the guy lost a stick, broke a stick and we got to move it around a little bit. Pavs obviously a great screen in front. That was the key there and I got my shot through.”
NOTES: Nashville F Brandon Yip left in the first period with an upper body injury after crashing into the boards. … The Predators failed to earn a point for just the second time in 11 games against the Sharks. … Thornton got his 1,100th career point with an assist on Pavelski’s goal. … San Jose has only five goals from its defencemen all season. … Sharks F Marty Havlat left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury.