NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Little Joe came up big again for San Jose.
Joe Pavelski scored twice to lead the Sharks to a 3-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Logan Couture also scored for the Sharks. Rookie Craig Smith had the lone Nashville goal.
The Sharks started the season with just one victory in their first four games but have now won three straight. Nashville has lost five of their last six.
Just 57 seconds after Smith tied the game 1-1, the five-foot-11, 195-pound Pavelski grabbed a loose puck behind the Nashville goal and stuffed it just inside the right post past goaltender Pekka Rinne.
“He’s big and a little flick of his toe, he is over there,” Pavelski said of Rinne. “He was coming, I was glad to see it went through.”
Rinne was disappointed in not being able to make that save.
“It was the next shift and it was in the back of our net,” he said. “It is a tough one to take. I can only talk about myself, and I am disappointed how it ended for myself. I can’t let that kind of goal in.”
Couture scored the game’s first goal at 14:22 of the opening period.
Pavelski added an empty net goal at 18:48 of the third to account for the final margin.
With the Predators on a power play, Martin Havlat carried the puck down the right side and cut to the middle. His shot from the high slot was turned aside by Rinne, but Couture collected the rebound and flipped it high over Rinne’s stick for his second goal of the season.
After being held without a goal in his first five games this season, last season’s runner-up for the Calder Trophy has goals in consecutive games.
Havlat missed San Jose’s first four games of the season with an upper-body injury, but has posted one assist in each of his first three games as a Shark.
“He was very talented there,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said of Havlat. “He’s a gifted player and that’s why we got him here.”
The Sharks held that lead until Smith tied the game at 13:12 of the third with a power-play goal.
In the right faceoff circle, Smith corralled the rebound of Shea Weber’s shot from the slot and slipped a backhand low to the stick side of screened San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi.
Ryan Clowe took the penalty that put Nashville on the man advantage. He was glad his teammates were able to regain the lead.
“We deserved the win anyway,” Clowe said. “We were the better team. We played real solid tonight. It was tough that they tied it there.”
San Jose had an 36-20 shot advantage in the game. Nashville has been outshot by their opponent in each of their eight games this season.
“In the first period they had 17 shots, but a lot of them were from the outside,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They just wanted to start putting pucks to the net. We don’t, that’s one of the things we have to work on a little bit.”
Despite the loss, Nashville did welcome back two injured players to their lineup Tuesday. Center Mike Fisher returned from off-season shoulder surgery to play his first game of the 2011-12 campaign. Defenceman Francis Bouillon played his first game since sustaining a concussion Jan. 16.
Notes: Rinne has started each of Nashville’s eight games this season. … Fisher collected an assist on Nashville’s lone goal Couture has points in three straight games. … Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton assisted on Pavelski’s goal. Thornton has points in four straight games.