There was a lot of emotion in last night’s game between the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks. Understandable, since it was the last time these teams will meet before the playoffs and if they meet again this season, it will likely be in the Western Conference Final.
The first period saw some scuffles and a fight between Michael Haley and Wayne Simmonds. The second period saw Joe Thornton exchanging crosschecks with Colton Sissons. Both players ended up contributing on the scoreboard as well.
The score- and venue-adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi chart from Natural Stat Trick pretty much tells the story of the game. Where the Sharks usually dominate possession in games, this time, it was an even match. Sometimes the Sharks would pressure, sometimes the Predators would.
Looking at the heat map, you can see that the Predators scored all of their goals last night from right there in the crease or just outside of it. One was a tip play and another was a wrap around. There was also an empty netter, but even that one was up close.
Both Martin Jones and Juuse Saros were solid in net. Jones finished the night with 26 saves and a .897 save percentage. Saros finished with 24 saves and a .923 save percentage.
Part of the loss could be attributed to the power play. The Sharks went 0 for 3 on the power play. Captain Joe Pavelski said after the game, they’re working on some things to get it going again.
“But definitely the power play could be better and at the end of the day it’s all about the finish on it,” said Pavelski. “We looked at a few things the other day, I thought today was a lot better. Our entries were a lot cleaner. We had some zone time where we shot it and felt like we were getting back, our plays were almost there. Maybe a little too cute at times.”
“That’s the challenge,” continued Pavelski. “When you’re going good on the power play is not to look for that perfect play and try to set plays up. Just stick with the hard and simple part of the power play, shooting the puck and getting it around those nets and making plays like that.”
Head Coach Pete DeBoer added his own take on the power play after the game.
“I think a little bit of fatigue, a little bit of personnel with some of the guys we’ve had out with Kaner, just getting back in and obviously Erik Karlsson makes a difference there,” said DeBoer. “I also think the schedule, I know it’s not an excuse, I think it’s six games in nine nights and back and forth to Winnipeg and back. I think you don’t look sharp when you’re a little fatigued and I think some of our big guys are a little fatigued.”
It’s also hard to keep the energy up when you’re playing from behind from most of the game. Early on, Timo Meier looked like he had a breakaway, but failed to score. The miss sent the Predators the other way on a three-on-two. All three Nashville players drove the net. Jones went out to stop Craig Smith, who had the puck, but Smith outwitted everyone and dished it to Sissons who was driving toward the net as well. Sissons had a wide open net and he did not miss.
1-0, Predators, on the first shot of the game.
Despite the score, the Sharks continued to attack. San Jose put enough pressure on former Shark Matt Irwin to force him to take an interference penalty. The Sharks received the first power play of the night. Sadly, the aforementioned power play failed to convert and after two minutes, the score remained the same.
Less than a minute after the power play, Haley dropped the gloves with Simmonds. The two skated around each other and spent a looonnnngg time sizing each other up before they finally engaged. Neither guy dropped the other, but they both got in a few good shots. Both players received five for fighting.
“Not every team has guys that usually will try to fight me,” said Haley in the intermission. “We were down 1-0. I asked [Simmonds], and he obliged.”
Apparently Haley did not say please before the two dropped the gloves.
“My Canadian manners stop once I hit the ice,” Haley told Jamie Baker during the intermission.
Somewhere before that fight, Barclay Goodrow received a penalty for roughing, so the Sharks ended up being shorthanded when all was said and done.
On the ensuing Predators’ power play, Jones came up with two incredible saves on Brian Boyle. The saves helped San Jose go on the attack and that’s when Joe Pavelski drew a slashing penalty. It was 4-on-4 time.
Pavelski went to the locker room midway through the first period after he fell awkwardly into the boards. He returned to the game a few minutes later. After the game, Pavelski said he got a little twisted up, but he feels good. That’s good news. Captain America isn’t just the team’s leading scorer, but he’s also the heart and soul of the team. Can the Sharks win without him? Sure, but it would be a lot harder.
San Jose continued to try and get the puck past the Predators’ defense and goaltender Saros, but were unable to. The period ended with Nashville still leading 1-0.
In the second period, it was a lot of back and forth hockey. The Sharks would have a scoring chance, only to have it followed by a chance for the Predators. It went back and forth like that for a number of minutes before Meier managed to finally breakthrough.
On the play, Logan Couture fed the puck to Joakim Ryan at the point, who passed it to Pavelski in the faceoff circle. Pavelski tapped it over to Meier, who was on the other side of the net. Meier shot it in before Saros had a chance to push across.
But the Sharks barely had time to celebrate the goal before Nashville took back the lead.
Filip Forsberg shot it at the net, knowing Viktor Arvidsson was waiting for the puck. Arvidsson got just enough on it to fool Jones. 2-1, Predators.
The Sharks received another power play at 7:09 of the second period, but again, they had trouble converting. Saros had some great saves in the second period and a good deal of them came during that penalty kill.
At the 12:59 mark, it was another chance for 4-on-4 hockey. Thornton and Sissons exchanged crosschecks and were told to sit for a pair.
Sissons delivered the first blow along the boards while Thornton was playing the puck. Thornton wasn’t pleased at where the crosscheck hit. Baker says it was in a place where there isn’t much padding and that’s what had Thornton so fired up. After playing the puck, Thornton sent a pair of crosschecks Sissons’ way and the refs blew the whistle. Even after taking a seat, Thornton was jawing at Sissons for at least a minute more.
Nothing came of the penalties and it was pack to 5-on-5 ... for a few minutes. Then Meier and Roman Josi were asked to sit. Josi was called for interference, while Meier received an unsportsmanlike conduct call for “diving.”
To quote Randy Hahn, “The rare Swiss-on-Swiss violence.”
This time, someone finally scored at 4-on-4.
Angry Jumbo scores goals, we like angry Jumbo pic.twitter.com/iAKVBirqUa— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) March 17, 2019
Arvidsson was stripped of the puck in the Sharks’ zone. Brent Burns passed it to the neutral zone and onto the stick of Thornton. Thornton brought the puck across the blueline and then drove the net before dropping it back for Burns. Burns circled wide and then drove towards the net, he passed it up front where Thornton was ready to tip it in. Marc-Edouard Vlasic received the secondary assist on the goal.
The Predators tried to get the go-ahead goal in the remaining two minutes of the second period, but were unable to.
2-2 was the score after two.
With two points on the line things tightened up to start the third period. There were fewer scoring chances and a lot more defensive hockey, until the Predators regained the lead at 7:02 of the third.
The shot on net was stopped by Jones, but the rebound went straight to Forsberg. Jones was sliding to one side to stop Forsberg’s shot, but the forward decided to go around the back of the net instead. He beat all of the Sharks to the other post and Forsberg banked it off of Tim Heed’s stick and into the net.
At 11:00, Kevin Labanc put the Sharks in a deeper hole when he took a crosschecking penalty. San Jose spent two minutes killing a penalty instead of trying to score.
Following the kill, San Jose had a number of good scoring chances that were all stopped by Saros.
Then, with just over 90 seconds left, the Sharks pulled Jones. Sadly, it led to a score by the wrong team. Nick Bonino stopped Burns from sending the puck deep into the Nashville zone. Bonino tapped the puck out into the neutral zone and in front of Arvidsson who skated in for an easy empty net goal.
After that, the rest of the game was really just a formality.
It will be another tough matchup for San Jose on Monday night at SAP Center when they host the Vegas Golden Knights.
Meanwhile, the Predators host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night back in Nashville.