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Nashville Predators 8, San Jose Sharks 0: Fourth Line Shows Up Big as Saros Earns Shutout

Peak Saros and big games by Luff, McCarron, and Tomasino earn the Predators an important two points.

NHL: MAR 05 Predators at Sharks Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In what felt like an opportune time to earn a critical two points, the Nashville Predators took the ice in San Jose against a struggling Sharks team. After dropping a rough game to the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday, this game for the Predators almost seemed like a “must win” to get back to the identity hockey that brought the team success prior to the All-Star Break.

The Predators welcomed Alexandre Carrier back on defense after he'd missed several games due to injury. Interestingly, Mark Borowiecki was not in the lineup; instead, Matt Benning was paired with Ben Harpur for the Predators’ third defensive pairing. In an attempt to jump start some players, John Hynes tinkered with the top two forward lines, putting Ryan Johansen with Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg while Mikael Granlund centered the second line of Luke Kunin and Elli Tolvanen.

San Jose was dealing with their own rough patch, going 2-5-3 in their last ten games and playing without Erik Karlsson and goaltender James Reimer. Alex Stalock, recently acquired by the Sharks, took his place in net against the Predators. Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier have been carrying the Sharks team, leading the team in points.

Period One

The game started with some early back and forth punctuated by fisticuffs between Luke Kunin and Timo Meier in front of the Sharks’ net at 1:49. Both players headed to the penalty box for two minutes, and the teams played four on four action. Neither side could capitalize on the extra ice space, and after two minutes each team returned to full strength.

The game went back and forth for much of the period before either team could find the back of the net. Michael McCarron lit the lamp for Nashville on a pass from Phil Tomasino at 10:42.

Juuse Saros showed his amazing lateral movement, robbing Ryan Dzingel of what looked to be a sure goal. Shortly after that big save, Roman Josi gave the Sharks another two-minute opportunity after being called for tripping at 16:04. The Predators were able to kill off the penalty, only giving up one shot that was easily handled by Saros.

With just ninety seconds left in the period, Matt Duchene let a shot rip from near the blue line, and the puck made its way through the traffic past Stalock to make the game 2-0.

Period Two

The Predators pressured Stalock early. The netfront traffic from Michael McCarron and Matt Luff provided a useful screen for Roman Josi’s shot, which was eventually ruled a tip goal by Matt Luff for the Predators’ third goal of the game at 2:43.

Timo Meier was called for interference at 4:34, giving the Predators a brief man advantage until Filip Forsberg took exception to a Logan Couture collision and was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:08. The teams played four on four hockey for a little over a minute. The Sharks enjoyed a brief power play once the four on four ended, but Juuse Saros shut down the two good chances San Jose placed on net.

The Sharks increased their offensive pressure midway through the period, but Saros protected his real estate well. San Jose committed a holding penalty at 12:42 to interrupt their own momentum. Granlund had a golden opportunity on the power play but wasn’t able to elevate the puck over Stalock’s pad, and the teams returned to five a side.

Tanner Jeannot was called for boarding at 16:03 against Tomas Hertl. Before the teams could even clear out of the ensuing face-off circle, Hertl was called for a face-off violation to make it four on four for the third time in the game.

The fourth line’s tenaciousness paid off when the teams returned to full strength. Matt Luff found the puck in a hectic netfront scrum at 19:30 and sent it past Stalock to give the Predators a 4-0 lead as the period ended.

Period Three

The Predators continued to control the game in the third period. Matt Duchene received a pass as he streaked through the offensive zone, froze Stalock, and lifted the puck past the goaltender to make the game 5-0 at 4:43.

The fourth line again showed their tenacity as Matt Luff put the puck on the tape of Michael McCarron, who tapped the puck past Stalock at 6:07, giving the Predators a 6-0 lead and ending Stalock’s night in net. Zach Sawchenko came in for the Sharks.

Colton Sissons was called for a hold at 6:34, but the Predators were able to kill off the two-minute penalty. The Predators had all the momentum at this point in the game, and it was the Herd Line’s turn to score as Yakov Trenin made the game 7-0 at 11:13.

A frustrated Jonah Gadjovich was called for roughing Mikael Granlund at 12:57, giving the Predators another power play opportunity. John Hynes rewarded Michael McCarron’s hard work with a brief turn on the power play unit. McCarron provided a screen on Sawchenko, and Granlund exacted revenge at 13:06 with a power-play goal.

Two fights broke out in the waning minutes of the game as the frustrated Sharks dropped the gloves against Ben Harpur and Luke Kunin, who then exited the game with their opponents. The Predators ended the game on a power play, and the final score was 8-0.

Three Things:

  1. Fourth line, best line. Tonight belonged to the Predators’ fourth line, who combined for 4 of the 8 goals in the game. Phil Tomasino ended the game with three assists, Matt Luff had two goals, one assist, and Michael McCarron logged two goals and two assists.
  2. Juuuuuuuuuse. This was Juuse Saros’s best game since the All Star break. A limited number of shots on goal—only 20 for the game—and displays of his amazing lateral movement earned Saros a shutout win.
  3. Key two points. While the Sharks were missing several key pieces, this win is still an important win for the Nashville Predators, who are in the playoff hunt. The team also needed a game where they played sixty minutes of identity hockey, which will be necessary with the games coming up on Nashville’s schedule.