Headed into the third period the Nashville Predators were holding on to a 1-0 lead, but then the San Jose Sharks decided to flip that script and score five goals in the final frame on their way to a 5-2 victory in Game 1.
In the shots on goal department during 5-on-5 play, the game was extremely close with the Sharks edging out the Preds by a count of 27-26. As for the quality of chances each team produced, San Jose took the crown in that category with 20 high-danger chances compared to just nine from Nashville during 5-on-5 situations.
The Sharks wracked up a total of 39 scoring chances in all situations while the Preds were responsible for just 28.
Craig Smith was a scratch for the Predators as he missed Game 1 with a lower-body injury, which is well worth noting.
The first period was not much more than a snooze fest in terms of offense as neither team lit the lamp nor had a spectacular chances of doing so. The Preds out shot the Sharks 12-11 in the frame, but that was about the only highlight offensively coming from the opening 20 minutes.
Well, outside of this bizarre play when Anthony Bitetto slid into Pekka Rinne as Melker Karlsson put the puck into the net while it was being thrown off of its moorings. The play was reviewed and no goal was awarded.
One of the better chances the Predators had in putting one in the back of the net came via Viktor Arvidsson trying to sneak one home past Martin Jones.
Rinne made a number of big saves in the first frame, but none bigger than his last two to close out the period.
The first on a tip off of Joe Thornton's stick:
And another as the horn sounded to close out the period:
While the first period served to be a feeling out process for both clubs and evenly matched throughout, the middle frame was the tightest 20 minutes of the night. Both teams managed 10 scoring chances each in all situations while San Jose out numbered Nashville 5-4 in the high-danger scoring chances department.
Nevertheless, it was the Predators that got the scoring going thanks to an impressive wrister from Mike Fisher 4:33 into the period that squeezed between Jones' shoulder and the crossbar. Ryan Johansen found Fisher to set up the go-ahead goal while Mattias Ekholm was credited with the secondary assist.
In the third period, the Predators got off to a poor start as Johansen took a holding minor on Joe Pavelski to give the Sharks their second power play of the evening; and this time they would capitalize.
As the Sharks' time on the man advantage was dwindling down, Tomas Hertl received a pass from former Predator Joel Ward just below the face off circle and the 22-year-old snuck a wrister over a diving Shea Weber and between Rinne and the goal post to knot things up at 1-1.
The Hertl goal was only the beginning of what was to come from San Jose in the final period.
With 8:11 left Ward worked some more magic against his former club scoring his first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ward streaked through the middle of the ice all alone and received a perfect pass from Joonas Donskoi before making a brilliant move to fake out Rinne and tuck home the tally.
Then, with 4:40 left in regulation, Calle Jarnkrok was called for high-sticking on Donskoi and 20 seconds later the Sharks delivered the dagger with their second power play goal of the night.
Logan Couture received a spot-on backhand pass from Pavelski on the wing before simply putting his stick out and deflecting the puck past Rinne to give the Sharks the 3-1 lead.
While all the wind seemed to be out of Nashville's sails, Johansen - particularly his face - had other plans as he was credited with a goal with 1:49 left to cut the Sharks lead in half.
Off of a shot from Roman Josi, the puck deflected up and off of Johansen's face past Jones and into the back of the net.
Then, just 20 seconds later, Couture scored his second of the night into the empty net to give the Sharks the 4-2 advantage. Thinking that wasn't enough, San Jose scored another empty netter with 50 seconds left, this one from Tommy Wingels to give the Sharks their 5-2 win and 1-0 series lead.
The Sharks out shot Nashville 13-9 in the third period while managing to create 18 scoring chances while the Preds had just 10.
In looking back at the game, Rinne was absolutely dominant through the first two periods stopping all 25 of the shots he faced. Two of the goals he gave up were via the power play while lone even strength goal the team in front of him lost track of a streaking Ward who then put the moves on Rinne for the go-ahead goal.
When it was all said and done, Rinne stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced. He made 15 high-danger saves while allowing two high-danger goals.
Ward was the Predators' kryptonite all night with one goal an assist and three high-danger chances. James Neal led the way for Nashville in the scoring chance department with five while Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Ekholm each had three.
Ryan Johansen: "We’re going to learn from tonight and that’s why it’s a best of seven. We’ll be ready to play next game." #Preds— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) April 30, 2016