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Post-Game Musings: at San Jose

Friday, 03.16.2012 / 1:38 AM / Features
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Post-Game Musings: at San Jose
The Preds continued to add points on their West Coast Road Trip, picking up a shootout point in a difficult road building on Tuesday night in San Jose.

The Sharks, entering the contest three points outside the playoff picture in the West, brought their "A-Game" tonight, playing a "desperate" physical game; to their credit, the Preds survived the first two periods and then had the better of the play in the third period. Both teams took advantage of power-plays to net goals during regulation and both goaltenders were strong enough to prevent any additional goals, forcing a shootout after a 1-1 draw through 65 minutes of action.

Ryane Clowe converted the only shootout attempt to give the Sharks the win, but the Preds still earned a point -- giving Nashville three of a possible four points to open the road trip -- and moved just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings in the race for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference (and home ice advantage in the first round). Nashville also extended its lead to six points over No. 6 seed Chicago and 10 points over the playoff cut line. The Preds have a game at hand against both the Red Wings and Blackhawks.

Nashville will fly to Southern California for a weekend back-to-back at Los Angeles and at Anaheim to close out the road trip.

Now on to the musings...

THREE MUSINGS:
Peks-tacular Goaltending: Pekka Rinne was the difference for the Preds tonight. San Jose controlled the majority of the play through the first two periods, but Rinne kept the Sharks off the board. The Preds evened up the play during the third period, but the Sharks held a 24-12 advantage in shots attempted over the first period and added another 30 attempted shots in the second period. The second period was one of Rinne’s most impressive performances this season. The Sharks broke through with a couple very dangerous sequences in the middle frame – a strong push in the opening minute of the second period created a pair of good chances and then he robbed Martin Havlat on the original and rebound attempt with 5:43 remaining in Period 2 and then had a difficult sequence with under a minute in the period, turning aside a Dan Boyle shot that pinballed through traffic and then shuffled to his left to deny Dominic Moore on the rebound attempt.

Playoff Intensity: The Sharks decided to play an edgy, physical game tonight -- the type of nastiness that usually reserved for divisional rivalries and playoff series -- and the Preds didn’t back down. Most noteably, centers Paul Gaustad and Mike Fisher stepped up when challenged. Gaustad matched the Sharks physical level all night, regularly winning one-on-one battles, throwing his weight around along the boards, and stepping into a couple post-whistle scrums. Fisher did quite a bit of jawing with various Sharks players, including going chest-to-chest with pesky Dominic Moore early in the third period. Even Martin Erat, who normally ignores the post-whistle bravado, went shoulder to shoulder with different Sharks during pre-faceoff chippiness and was one of the first Preds to come to his goaltender's aid when Martin Havlat took some liberties during the second period.

Sharks Dodge A Bullet: Sharks forward Daniel Winnik took an offensive zone tripping call with 4:17 left in the second period. Simultaneously, Martin Havlat used his stick to “can opener” Pekka Rinne’s right pad leg, leading to a scrum in the Preds crease – including a physical response from the normally mild-mannered Rinne. Instead of awarding the Preds a two-man advantage for the simultaneous minor infractions, the officials called Havlat and Paul Gaustad for matching roughing calls giving the Preds just the original five-on-four power-play for Winnik’s trip. With Nashville’s power-play potency, the full 2:00 two-man advantage would have been very difficult for the Sharks; instead San Jose killed off the power-play and drew a man-advantage of its own in the final minute of the period, which the Sharks used to even the score, 1-1.


THREE STARS:
1) NSH G Pekka Rinne - 34 saves, plus 2-of-3 in the shootout
2) SJ G Antti Niemi - 32 saves, plus 3-of-3 in the shootout
3) SJ D Dan Boyle - 1 assist, 26:58 ice time, game-high 5 shots on goal, several quality scoring chances


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