SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Nashville Predators dressed and packed with noticeable speed Tuesday night, slamming sticks and pads into their bags and rushing to the idling team bus.
Although many visiting teams at the Shark Tank are eager to get to the airport to beat San Jose’s curfew on late-night flights, the Predators said they were just making a clean getaway after goalie Dan Ellis’ absolute heist of a victory.
Ville Koistinen scored with 2:32 left in overtime, and Ellis made 54 saves against San Jose’s franchise-record shooting barrage in the Predators’ 4-3 win Tuesday night.
Ryan Suter and Vernon Fiddler scored tying goals in the third period for Nashville, and Ellis’ brilliance kept his club in a one-sided game dominated by San Jose. The overall NHL leaders had a 57-29 shot differential and countless chances to build a huge lead, but San Jose blew a two-goal advantage while making just enough mistakes to allow Ellis to earn the most memorable win of his short career.
“We stole this game,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “Danny Ellis stole it, bottom line. He’s the reason we won. They were letting us hang around. They kept us on life-support, then we got off the table and scored a goal. I am absolutely thrilled we won a game we shouldn’t have.”
Jason Arnott also scored for the Predators, who snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the Sharks’ nine-game home winning streak when Koistinen capitalized on one last defensive miscue by San Jose off a faceoff.
Devin Setoguchi had two goals and an assist while matching the club record with 10 shots for the Sharks, who lost at home for the first time this season. San Jose shattered the franchise record of 50 shots well before overtime, finishing with 57 – but only Setoguchi and Rob Blake managed to beat Ellis, the former journeyman goalie in just his second full NHL season with the Predators.
“It’s difficult to defend when they have so many big bodies,” Ellis said. “I was trying to find the puck a lot. They put persistent pressure on you, and you want to be on your toes. I had to fight just to see the puck and wanted to respond as soon as possible, control the rebounds and give the team a chance.”
In overtime, Ellis stopped Sharks captain Patrick Marleau on a breakaway chance moments before Koistinen put an unobstructed shot past Brian Boucher, giving Nashville just its second road win in nine games this season. The Predators had lost the first three games of a six-game road swing.
Boucher made 25 saves in his third consecutive start in place of injured Evgeni Nabokov, but he wasn’t nearly as sharp as Ellis.
“Sometimes you get in a zone, and play is going to be easier from time to time,” said Boucher, who set a modern NHL record with five consecutive shutouts during the 2003-04 season. “We’re pretty upset to get up against a team like that and not get two points. It’s very disappointing.”
The Sharks still are the overall NHL leaders at 13-3-1, but they’ve lost back-to-back games for the first time while falling short of the NHL record of 10 home wins to start a season. San Jose clearly is embracing new coach Todd McLellan’s shot-heavy philosophy borrowed from his former employers in Detroit, but some of the Sharks haven’t yet developed the Red Wings’ standout finishing skills.
“We said all along that we’d evaluate our team on the process and not the end result, and actually tonight, we played a heck of a game,” McLellan said. “We’ve played poorer than that and won this year, so we’re not distraught by any means.”
San Jose excelled even without Nabokov, right wing Jonathan Cheechoo and defenceman Dan Boyle, getting a major jump on the Predators from the opening faceoff. Setoguchi finally put the Sharks ahead on their 19th shot in the first 17 minutes – a one-timer set up by defenceman Brad Lukowich.
After Blake scored during a power play on San Jose’s 43rd shot, Arnott scored before Fiddler tied it with 14:18 to play. Setoguchi put the Sharks back in front 27 seconds later, but Suter tied it again on a rebound shot 1 second after a Nashville power play ended.
Ryane Clowe had an open shot from the slot in the closing seconds of regulation, but Ellis made his 52nd save.
“It’s obviously disappointing when you get all those shots,” Setoguchi said. “Give their goalie props, he made a lot of stops. … I’m frustrated with the loss, and he played good. There’s nothing more to say.”
Notes: Boyle’s wife, Amber, gave birth to daughter Eastin Sky Boyle on Tuesday morning. … Cheechoo missed his third straight game with an upper body injury from a hard check in last week’s win over St. Louis. … Joe Pavelski had eight shots for San Jose, and Marleau added seven. … The clubs meet again in Nashville on Monday.