J.P. Dumont scored a short-handed goal, then added a power-play goal 2½ minutes later, and the Predators evened their Western Conference quarter-final by beating San Jose 5-2 Friday night in a penalty-and fight-filled game.
“We came here to play hockey tonight,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We knew it was an important game, and they turn it into a street brawl.”
San Jose coach Ron Wilson, who lost a player to injury for a second straight game, stalked into the post-game news conference and picked up the microphone.
“I have no comment,” Wilson said before walking out of the room.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Monday night in San Jose.
After 32 combined penalties for 141 minutes and six game misconducts in the final minute, the NHL issued a statement not to expect any disciplinary decisions until Saturday. League vice president Colin Campbell will study the incidents and review the game misconducts.
“I think Colin Campbell has a job, and his job is to review these plays,” San Jose centre Joe Thornton said. “I’m sure if he wants us to play this way, we can play this way. It’s in his hands, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Sharks embarrassed Nashville in the 2006 conference quarter-finals, and the Predators spent the past year adding size to compete, signing Jason Arnott and Dumont and trading for Peter Forsberg.
The Swede scored his first two goals this post-season, rookie Alexander Radulov had a goal and an assist in the first period, and Marek Zidlicky had two assists as the Predators made sure this series will return to Nashville for Game 5.
Craig Rivet and Ryane Clowe scored for San Jose, which outshot Nashville 24-22.
These teams haven’t been happy with each other since Wednesday night.
San Jose forward Jonathan Cheechoo was knocked out of that game with a sprained knee. The Sharks keep calling it a dirty hit, which the Predators called an unfortunate collision that should not have resulted in Scott Hartnell’s ejection.
Officials stayed busy separating players all night long. Trotz yelled at officials from the bench after Hartnell was called for a tripping penalty in the first session. Trotz said the Sharks came looking for revenge and pointed to a quote that the payback might not target Hartnell, but other Predators.
“You could see from the opening whistle that was their intent,” he said.
When Forsberg clinched the victory with an empty-netter with 65 seconds left, things disintegrated with three separate fights off the ensuing faceoff and five players ejected. Trotz said Clowe instigated, dropping his gloves and wanting to fight Hartnell.
Clowe said he was going to ask Hartnell straight up to fight.
“I’m sure he knows what he did, obviously, just common sense that somebody is going to stand up for your teammate, and that’s what I did,” Clowe said. “We stuck together, and that’s the main thing.”
The worst of the rugged play came much earlier.
Radulov skated up and elbowed Steve Bernier into the boards at 4:44 of the second period, snapping Bernier’s head back before the Sharks forward fell face-first onto the ice. A gurney was called for before Thornton and Marcel Goc helped him off.
“He’s a big kid, he doesn’t go down too easy,” Thornton said. “So, we’ll have to see.”
Officials gave Radulov a five-minute major and game misconduct. But San Jose could not score, not even when the Sharks got a 5-on-3 for 61 seconds at the end of that major.
Jordin Tootoo, who served the major, skated out of the box and helped clear the puck. Dumont collected it and skated up and beat Evgeni Nabokov with a wrist shot.
Goc and Clowe went to the box together 34 seconds later, giving Nashville its own 5-on-3. With four seconds left, Zidlicky found Dumont at the edge of the left circle, and he scored as Nabokov flung himself back into the net trying to stop the puck.
“It was a big kill for us, and we (need) to just build on this,” Dumont said.
The sellout crowd roared its approval.
“You couldn’t even hear yourself think, it was so loud,” Hartnell said.
San Jose outshot Nashville 12-5 in the first period and led 1-0 after Rivet beat Tomas Vokoun on the rebound of his own shot.
But Vernon Fiddler beat San Jose rookie defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to a loose puck down the left boards, reached around Vlasic and flipped the puck toward the net. Radulov was there and scored on a wrister to tie it. Radulov also had an assist on Forsberg’s goal for a 2-1 lead.
Cheechoo played and had his first point on an assist of Clowe’s goal midway in the third period.
Notes: Bernier did not return as a precaution and had his head and neck X-rayed. … San Jose went 0-for-5 on the power play. … Radulov, who had two goals in Game 1, was the first NHL player to score two goals in his playoff debut since teammate Paul Kariya, who had two on April 16, 1997, against Phoenix. … Nashville had the celebrity power out, with 1984 Olympic gold medal figure skater Scott Hamilton and country singers Rodney Crowell and Barbara Mandrell in attendance. The Predators even had season-ticket holders Vince Gill and Amy Grant sing the national anthem.