Shutdown line outscores San Jose's big guns as Predators top Sharks 4-3

Charged with trying to shut down San Jose's top line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Ryan Clowe, the Nashville Predators line of David Legwand, Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson instead lit up the scoreboard in a 4-3 victory over the top team in the Western Conference. Legwand and Ward each had a goal and two assists, while Smithson added his 4th goal of the season. Those three were the only Nashville forwards to finish on the positive side of the Plus/Minus stat as well, as the team held on for the 7th win in their last nine games.

After the jump we've got the recap and advanced even-strength statistics...

The key to tonight's win, remarkably enough, was special teams. Nashville's power play, which has been a sore spot all season, got them the early lead when Steve Sullivan converted a 5-on-3 advantage in the 1st period to put the Preds in front 1-0 at the 13:19 mark. Sully simply set up in the faceoff dot to the right of San Jose goaltender Thomas Greiss and one-timed a crossing pass from J.P. Dumont into a wide-open net for the score.

Shortly thereafter, however, it was a pair of ex-Predators who tied the game back up; while Nashville was finishing up a 5-on-4 advantage left over after the Sullivan goal, Jed Ortmeyer stormed down the right wing and fed the puck in front to a streaking Scott Nichol, who tipped it in for his first goal of the season.

Less than two minutes later, though, the Preds answered back. A 2-on-1 break got started when Ward tipped the puck out of the Nashville zone. Legwand carried through center ice into the San Jose end, and fed Smithson for his 4th goal, tying his output from all of last season in just his 18th game.

In the second period, it was once again the power play that made a difference for the Preds; with Dan Boyle off for tripping J.P. Dumont, Ward tipped a Ryan Suter point shot to extend the Nashville lead to 3-1. It was Ward's third goal of the season and his second on the power play.

Things really got rolling just a few minutes later, as persistent forechecking led to another Nashville score; Ward dug the puck out of the corner deep in the San Jose zone, fed it Legwand in the circle, and a quick shot put the Preds up 4-1, whereupon the crowd immediately started chanting for Frosties (which tickets are good for when the Predators score 5 goals at home).

From there on, it was an issue of holding on; the Sharks' top line with Thornton and Heatley often created dangerous chances, and they cashed in with 41 seconds left in the second period to close the gap to 4-2.

In the third, the Predators killed off a Holding penalty to Suter midway through the period, and seemed on the smooth road to victory until the final minute. With the San Jose goalkeeper pulled, the Sharks capitalized on the 6-on-5 advantage with a Patrick Marleau goal to make the score 4-3 with 52 seconds left. Just then, however, there was a problem with the game clock, which led to a few minutes of delay before the game continued. When Nashville iced the puck with 3 seconds left, the clock ran down to 0 again, resulting in another delay before they could put the time back up and resume play. While the Preds rode it out and sealed the victory, head coach Barry Trotz ripped the off-ice officials in his post-game press conference, saying they basically gave San Jose two extra opportunities to rest up their best players and take their shot at tying the game.

Fortunately for Nashville, those technical gaffes didn't cost them on the scoreboard or in the standings.

Pekka Rinne was excellent in net for the Predators, making 29 saves on 32 San Jose shots; none of the goals against were particularly soft, and he did a good job stuffing a number of dangerous opportunities. He's now won six of his last seven starts.

Having opened their 5-game home stand with consecutive victories, attention can now turn to the New Jersey Devils, who bring the Eastern Conference's best record into the Sommet Center on Thursday...

When considering the Even Strength statistics below, what jumps out once again is the relatively even distribution of ice time; since the Predators aren't taking many penalties, they can generally roll all four lines. Whenever the Thornton line came out the Legwand line responded, and there were instances where Marcel Goc got an extra shift or two that started in the defensive zone (as a backup faceoff man), but all the forwards got plenty of work.

On defense, the top pair of Weber and Suter had their hands full dealing with Thornton and Heatley, but they blocked a few shots and kept the damage to a minimum (only 1 of Heatley's 7 attempted shots forced Rinne to make a save, for example). Cody Franson continues to put up positive results in a relatively limited role, and that's the sign of a coach putting a young player in the best possible position to succeed. After some horrendous efforts during the opening weeks of the season, it would appear that three stable pairings have developed in Suter/Weber, Bouillon/Klein, and Hamhuis/Franson.

 Even Strength Individual Totals Team Totals While Player Is On Ice
 Player Pos EV TOI Shots Shts Blkd Missed Shts Blocks SOG For SOG Ag SOG +/- Tot SF Tot SA Corsi
 Jason Arnott C 14:33 2 4 0 0 7 10 -3 15 14 1
 Steve Sullivan L 13:50 0 0 1 0 5 8 -3 12 14 -2
 J P Dumont R 14:02 2 2 0 0 5 9 -4 13 13 0
 David Legwand C 17:38 1 1 1 1 7 5 2 14 19 -5
 Jerred Smithson R 15:51 0 0 0 0 5 5 0 9 17 -8
 Joel Ward R 15:54 2 1 1 1 6 4 2 9 18 -9
 Martin Erat R 10:43 0 1 1 0 9 7 2 13 11 2
 Michael Santorelli C 8:31 2 0 0 0 7 6 1 8 10 -2
 Patric Hornqvist R 10:10 3 0 0 0 8 6 2 9 10 -1
 Marcel Goc C 11:37 2 1 0 1 5 7 -2 8 12 -4
 Andreas Thuresson R 10:01 1 0 0 1 4 5 -1 7 10 -3
 Jordin Tootoo R 10:28 1 1 1 0 5 5 0 9 10 -1
 Shea Weber D 19:56 2 1 1 3 6 10 -4 13 25 -12
 Ryan Suter D 20:06 0 0 0 2 6 10 -4 10 25 -15
 Kevin Klein D 16:27 1 0 0 2 7 8 -1 13 14 -1
 Francis Bouillon D 15:25 1 0 0 1 4 9 -5 8 18 -10
 Dan Hamhuis D 17:06 1 0 0 2 15 8 7 26 12 14
 Cody Franson D 14:15 1 0 1 1 10 7 3 16 12 4
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