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Sharks fight through challenges to knock off Predators in series opener

The San Jose Sharks overcame some potential bad luck, some tough luck and a third-period deficit as they took Game 1 of their Western Conference series against the Nashville Predators on Friday.

The San Jose Sharks overcame some potential bad luck, some tough luck and a third-period deficit as they took Game 1 of their Western Conference series against the Nashville Predators on Friday.

The Sharks exploded in the third period by scoring five times – including two empty-netters – turning Nashville’s one-goal advantage into a 5-2 win.

Former Predator Joel Ward was the catalyst. He set up Tomas Hertl for a power-play goal and then scored the go-ahead marker to give the Sharks their first lead of the night. His goal occurred on a partial break as he outwaited Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne and tucked the puck around him at 11:49.

The Sharks never relinquished their lead. They grabbed a stranglehold on the game when Logan Couture finished off a beautiful saucer pass from captain Joe Pavelski four minutes later.

The Sharks came a long way after a few bad omens earlier on.

The first was a black cat, which ran off the Sharks bench and onto the ice during warmups. The cat scurried alongside the boards and left the ice through an open door.

The second was a disallowed goal by winger Melker Karlsson. Karlsson had a rebound chance on Rinne in the first period, but Predators defenseman Anthony Bitetto slid into the net, dislodging it from its moorings. Karlsson’s shot appeared to head towards the spot where the vacated net would have been. The play was reviewed. Rule 63.6 states: “In the event that the goal post is displaced either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goal posts, the referee may award a goal.” However, there was inconclusive evidence and the no goal was awarded.

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The third was a goal by Predators center Mike Fisher at 4:33 of the second period, which allowed the visitors to take a lead into the intermission. And, even after Hertl tied the score for the Sharks, Tommy Wingels hit the post on a chance that would have put the Sharks ahead.

However, Ward and Couture put the Sharks in front to stay. While Predators center Ryan Johansen narrowed the gap to one with 1:49 left in the third period, Couture and Wingels both scored with Rinne pulled.

Rinne stopped 33 of 36 shots, while Sharks netminder Martin Jones turned aside 29 of 31 attempts. Newly named Norris Trophy nominee Brent Burns chipped in with two assists.