An empty net goal by Joe Thornton was the difference in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2. The Sharks successfully defended their home-ice and will head to Tennessee with a 2-0 series lead.
Nashville looked much stronger than they did Friday night, much of that to the credit of Craig Smith, who returned to the lineup after missing the first game. Through the first forty minutes, Nashville out-shot San Jose 26-17 but were held scoreless by the stellar goaltending from Martin Jones.
From early on, it became apparent that any scoring on Jones or Pekka Rinne would be off a rebound or a deflection as both goalies were on top of their game. Rinne protected the post with his blocker to deny Joonas Donskoi of a goal in the second period and Jones prevented Nashville from lighting the lamp with several brilliant saves as well through the first two periods.
A bizarre too-many-men penalty on the Predators sent San Jose to the powerplay at the end of the second period, when Roman Josi mistakenly jumped into the Sharks' bench during a line change.
Seconds later, Logan Couture would score his fourth goal of the postseason, cleaning up a rebound in front of the net off a Brent Burns shot from the blue line for the game's first score.
With a 1-0 lead heading into the third period, the Sharks penalty kill was tested for a third time after Brenden Dillon was sent off for roughing. Moments later, Marc-Edouard Vlasic took a Shea Weber (!) slapshot off of his helmet and fell to the ice, but was able to skate off on his own power. With the powerplay seconds away from expiring, Couture and Nick Spaling had a shorthanded 2-on-1 opportunity but Rinne robbed Spaling who tried to go five-hole to keep it a one goal game.
The Predators scored the equalizer 12:56 into the third period when a screened Jones wasn't able to find Mattias Ekholm's shot through the traffic in front of the net. Nashville, who was the better team throughout regulation, were rewarded for their efforts on their 32nd shot on goal which knotted the game up at 1-1.
With 2:40 left in regulation, Joe Pavelski untied the game with a goal that barely got by Rinne and Weber (who was in the crease). The play was set up by Thornton who found a streaking Matt Nieto cutting towards the net at the left circle. Hit shot fluttered by Rinne and Pavelski cleaned it up to take the lead back.
Thornton would add an empty-netter in the final minute of the game to make it 3-1.
Ryan Johansen scored during a scrum near the net to cut the deficit in half at 3-2, but with just 3.5 seconds left in regulation, it was all too late and the Sharks would go on to defeat the Predators.