SAN JOSE, Calif. – A night after giving San Jose an opening to the Pacific Division title by winning in Anaheim, the Nashville Predators might have closed it up again by beating the Sharks.
Patric Hornqvist had two goals and one assist to help the Nashville Predators put a major dent into San Jose’s hopes for a division title by beating the Sharks 3-0 on Saturday night.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” defenceman Dan Boyle said. “Nashville went into their building and did their job. Unfortunately, we didn’t do ours to take advantage of that.”
Backup Carter Hutton made 35 saves in his first career shutout and Roman Josi also scored as the Predators kept their slim playoff hopes alive by beating winning road games on back-to-back nights against Anaheim and San Jose—the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
Nashville is six points behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with four games remaining.
“We’re never going to give up,” Hornqvist said. “It’s a long road to make the playoffs. But as long as we have a chance, we’re going to work as hard as we can. Obviously beating two great teams is nice. I think both of them can win the Cup. It’s a good statement for our team.”
The Predators’ win in Anaheim on Friday kept the Sharks just a point behind the Ducks in the standings but San Jose couldn’t capitalize two nights after an emotional home win over Los Angeles. Now the Sharks are running out of time to catch the Ducks after falling flat again against a team likely to miss the post-season.
They have only three games remaining, including their next contest in Anaheim on Wednesday, but the Ducks still have five games remaining and the inside track on the division title. San Jose is assured of at least second place.
“After the game we put together against L.A. to give a showing like that is unacceptable,” defenceman Jason Demers said. “We didn’t come out to work. We just sat back on our heels and let them take the game to us. It’s disappointing and something we’re going to have to obviously rectify as quick as possible here.”
If the Sharks do end up falling short in the division it will be their play at home against some of the league’s also-rans that will be a big reason. San Jose has lost five home games since the Olympic break, all to teams that are currently out of playoff position.
“We’re in a race and we have to be better than that,” captain Joe Thornton said.
The Predators took control of the game in a dominant second period, killing off a pair of penalties and beating Antti Niemi three times.
Hornqvist struck early in the period when he whacked at a rebound of Matt Cullen’s shot and knocked it in to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games.
He added his eighth goal in the past 11 games midway through the period just after Nick Spaling came out of the penalty box. Spaling got the puck behind San Jose’s net and set up Hornqvist for a one-timer from the slot for his 20th goal of the season.
Hornqvist then got an assist a few minutes later when Josi beat a flat-footed Demers as he drove to the net to make it 3-0.
“We were emotionally not attached to the game in the second period,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We’re at Game 79 and the details and the system play, you should be able to do it in your sleep at this point. We didn’t do that.”
The Sharks pressured in the third with 19 shots and two others from Brent Burns and Matt Irwin that hit posts but couldn’t beat Hutton.
The Predators have put together an impressive late-season run with points in seven of their past eight games. But it likely won’t be enough to overcome a 1-4 homestand after the Olympic break that put Nashville in a deep hole.
“This team won’t quit,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It hasn’t quit all year. It’s not going to quit. They will play right until the end. We see when the smoke clears where we stand.”
NOTES: Nashville swept the three-game season series and has won nine of 14 against the Sharks. … The Sharks last overcame a 3-0 deficit in the regular season on Feb. 1, 2011, when they rallied for a 5-3 win over Phoenix.