The San Jose Sharks were in Nashville tonight to take on the Predators, who are the only team to beat the Sharks at the HP Pavilion so far this year.
The Sharks came into this game having dramatically improved their power play by 40%. They are now 6th in the NHL on power play conversions, having been 19th just 4 days earlier. They converted on 8 of 15 in their last two games.
In net tonight were Brian Boucher, in his second start in as many days for San Jose, and Dan Ellis, who backstopped Nashville to their victory at the Shark Tank, after stopping a career high 54 of 57 shots.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was recognized before the game for his 750th game as an NHL coach (all games with Nashville).
The Predators won the opening faceoff, but San Jose had the edge in shots on goal after three minutes of play, at 2-1. The Sharks had an early shot that hit Nashville's goal post, while the Predators responded with a shot that went off San Jose's crossbar.
At 5:44, Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon was called for holding. The net came off about 50 seconds later, but that was all the excitement for that Sharks power play.
At 9:31, Ryan Suter tripped Brad Staubitz to earn an interference penalty, which angered the Nashville faithful.
Fourteen minutes in, Shea Weber punched Milan Michalek in the back of the head, which Jordin Tootoo augmented by charging Ryane Clowe, only to fall himself. Obviously hot-headed, Tootoo charged Joe Pavelski, and earned two minutes in the box.
Incidentally, Tootoo whistles in the crowd sounded strangely reminiscent of Cheechoo whistles at the Tank. But no matter - Tootoo's brashness proved costly for the Predators, as Devin Setoguchi got the Sharks on the board just 36 seconds into the power play, from the slot / right circle. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau assisted on Seto's 11th goal of the season.
It took just another minute and 27 seconds before the Sharks made it 2-0. Marcel Goc and Rob Blake charged the net following a setup by Blake at the point, but it was Jody Shelley who shot the puck over Ellis and into the back of the net. Shelley's first goal of the season came on the Sharks' 13th shot, while the Predators had only made 4 of their own. Blake and Staubitz received credit for the assists.
Patrick Marleau was called for hooking, despite there being a case for a boarding penalty against Christian Ehrhoff, at 19:39 of the first period. Less than twenty seconds later, a disastrous Nashville injury took place. Captain Jason Arnott flew into Brian Boucher's net, and slammed his head against the ice and metal net-lining. He was unable to get up on his own, though he was able to move his legs. He was taken to Vanderbilt University, where it was reported that he had movement and feeling across his body.
Coincidentally, Arnott's collision took place in front of the board advertising for none other than Vanderbilt Medical Center.
The injury occurred with 2.4 seconds left on the clock - due to the time spent caring for Arnott, the end of the first period would occur immediately before the start of the second.
The Sharks outshot the Predators 14-5 in the period, and converted on 1 of the 3 power plays.
After the first period officially winded down and the goaltenders switched sides, the second period was underway. Nashville had 1:40 left of their power play.
The Sharks had two key shorthanded opportunities, the latter of which led to a Nashville penalty. First, Marcel Goc broke out only to be stopped by Dan Ellis, and then Milan Michalek broke away, and was held illegally by Shea Weber, earning the latter 2 minutes in the penalty box. This created a 4-on-4 for a few seconds before the Sharks went on the power play themselves.
Nashville killed both that power play and an additional one that began at 4:38 (Greg de Vries called for boarding Jeremy Roenick). About a minute after the Predators were back to even-strength, Tomas Plihal ripped a shot on a breakaway that stunned Ellis and the Predators. San Jose now led 3-0 thanks to Plihal's unassisted goal, his second overall of the year.
About thirty seconds later, Jordin Tootoo was called for yet another penalty - cross checking. Once again, Nashville managed to kill that penalty, reminding San Jose that the Predators are the NHL's second best team at killing penalties on home ice.
Not deterred by the strong Nashville penalty kill, San Jose got up 4-0 when Patrick Marleau out-muscled two Predators to seize and hit in a loose puck in front of Ellis' net, at 11:12. It was San Jose's 4th goal on 20 shots. Christian Ehrhoff and Devin Setoguchi earned the assists.
And then the fighting began. Jordin Tootoo leveled Brad Staubitz, earning two minutes for roughing in addition to mutual five minute majors. Concurrently, Jody Shelley fought Greg de Vries. All the fun took place at 11:45.
The Sharks were then down a man when Brad Lukowich was called for interference at 12:07. San Jose managed to kill that penalty.
Brian Boucher was instrumental in keeping Nashville without a goal, as he made several great saves, including one at the sound of the buzzer during another Nashville power play (Roenick called for slashing at 18:38).
Nashville outshot the Sharks in the second period 12 to 10, and would begin the third period with a few moments of a power play.
After San Jose killed the Roenick penalty, Brian Boucher went to work preserving the Sharks' commanding 4-0 lead, making a brilliant toe save look like nothing.
Jordin Tootoo and Joe Thornton exchanged blows without being sent to the box, at 2:37, while Brad Lukowich earned a roughing penalty. A tripping penalty against Marcel Goc put Nashville briefly on the 5-on-3, though nothing came of either man advantage, because Brian Boucher was playing out of his mind for San Jose, making several amazing saves. It is worth noting that Nashville was outshooting San Jose 9 to 1 at about 5 minutes into the period.
Following the penalty kill, three separate fights broke out within a few seconds of each other. Joe Thornton held off Scott Nichol, who at 5 foot 9 simply looked puny against the 6 foot 4 Sharks center. Then Jordin Tootoo and Brad Staubitz went at it - Staubitz appeared to get the upper hand early, but Tootoo came roaring back double fisted to narrowly edge Staubitz for what this writer views as the win. It was far from over, as Jody Shelley then unloaded against Greg de Vries, bloodying him on a mean uppercut.
Vernon Fiddler was called for hooking Ryane Clowe a minute later, and the Sharks went on the power play yet again. However, the feisty David Legwand managed a shorthanded breakaway, and hit in his own rebound to end Brian Boucher's shutout bid at 9:27.
It was Nashville's 12th shot of the period - while the Sharks merely had 1 to match. San Jose was also losing the faceoffs, 31 to 36.
A mid-ice 3-man collision (including Marc-Edouard Vlasic and two Predators, while Jeremy Roenick narrowly slipped by it) and a Sharks penalty kill (Lukowich, interference) were the only other highlights of the end of the third, as San Jose held on for a 4-1 victory, improving their record to 16-3-1, while ruining Barry Trotz's 750th career game as Nashville's coach.
Power play = San Jose, 1 for 7; Nashville, 0 for 6.
Game-winning goal = Jody Shelley
Faceoff wins = Nashville, 40 to 33.
Shots on goal = Nashville, 33 to 32.
Ice time = Vlasic, 26:35 (plus-2, 2 s.o.g.), and Shea Weber, 26:11 (minus-one, SEVEN shots on goal).
Only Sharks with a minus-rating = the #2 line of Michalek-Pavelski-Clowe, each a minus-one.
Only Predators with a plus-rating = Bonk, Hamhuis, and Zanon, each a plus one.
Stars of the Game (all Sharks)
#1 = Devin "The Gooch" Setouchi
#2 = Brian "Boosh" Boucher
#3 = Patrick "O Captain My Captain" Marleau
San Jose has the week off before facing the Washington Capitals at home on Saturday, November 22.