The Nashville Predators took the ice tonight at Bridgestone Arena against the San Jose Sharks. After a loss to the Florida Panthers Saturday and an overtime loss against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, the Predators needed a strong performance and two important points tonight.
Nashville had one of their best offensive games against the Sharks in March, winning with an impressive score of 8-0. Tonight, the Sharks have a different goalie in net—Kaapo Kahkonen, who the Sharks acquired at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild. Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, former Predator Nick Bonino and the rest of the San Jose Sharks entered this game on a six game losing skid and were looking to dig themselves out of that slump.
Meanwhile, Nashville took the ice needing a strong performance and two critical points in a very competitive Central Division. Juuse Saros returned in net after being out Sunday with a non-COVID-related illness, and Dante Fabbro was back after a healthy scratch on Sunday. Mark Borowiecki was in the lineup despite being injured in the Penguins game Sunday. Nashville looked to bounce back after a tough weekend of hockey tonight in front of the home crowd.
It didn’t take Mark Borowiecki long to show he wasn’t going easy tonight after Sunday’s incident as he dropped the gloves with Jeffrey Viel at 2:03. A hard, but legal hit against the boards by Logan Couture on Eeli Tolvanen a few minutes later was further proof that this would be a physical game.
About halfway through the period, Mark Borowiecki ended up in another scrum, this time with Tomas Hertl. Hertl headed to the penalty box for roughing, while Boro earned a roughing and an interference call giving San Jose a power play at 11:17. The penalty kill has been excellent for the Predators of late, and they limited the Sharks to one shot on goal before the teams returned to five a side.
Nashville quickly earned a power play when Brent Burns tripped Filip Forsberg at 14:21. Forsberg got one shot on net, but the two minutes expired with no other offensive threat.
With less than :20 to play in the period, Dante Fabbro and Timo Meier mixed it up, earning both a roughing penalty and Meier a cross-checking call. Nashville finished the period on the power play and the buzzer sounded with a score of 0-0.
The Predators began the period with 1:38 remaining on the power play. The Sharks penalty kill challenged Nashville each time the Preds tried to enter the offensive zone, and the power play expired with no shots on net.
The pace of the game picked up once the game returned to five a side. Both teams had scoring chances spoiled by solid goaltending, and the Predators had two shots ricochet off the post in the flurry of activity. A break in the action came compliments of yet another fight that broke out, this time between Nick Cousins and Nicholas Meloche at 7:27.
It appeared the scoring finally started at 13:29 as Forsberg tipped in a shot by Josi. The Sharks immediately challenged for offside, and it was a clear offside, which kept the score 0-0. Nashville couldn’t find the back of the net in the remainder of the period despite applying offensive pressure and outshooting the Sharks 26-13 through the first two periods.
The final period started much as the second ended—with the Predators in the offensive zone looking to break through on the scoreboard. In the first three and a half minutes, Nashville put six shots on goal, but Kahkonen managed the puck handily.
Time of possession remained tipped in favor of the Predators through the first half of the period. Midway through the third, Nashville caught the Sharks in a line change, but Matt Duchene missed the net high on the ensuing three-on-one.
Bridgestone held its collective breath as Rudolfs Balcers slipped past the defense and had a good look at the net, but Saros again got into great position to block the Sharks’ best chance of the period with less than six minutes to go. Despite recording 40 shots on goal, the Predators couldn’t buy a score in regulation, and the game headed to overtime.
Nashville won the overtime faceoff and had a terrific look (again) but couldn’t finish. The Sharks immediately countered and Saros had the best save of the game—and one of his best of the season—on the ensuing breakaway.
With time winding down in overtime, Ryan Johansen finally scored the first—and last—goal of the game on a wide-angle shot. Nashville exited the ice with the 1-0 win and a very important two points.
- Mark Borowiecki is a beast. Despite his injury over the weekend, Boro came into this game with his usual fire. While he doesn’t have the statistics of other D-men, Boro’s ability to set a tone for the game is a big boost for his teammates.
- Saros was the secret weapon tonight. Nashville had more shots on goal, but Saros stopped all the high-danger shots thrown his way by the Sharks. Saros playing this well will be key as the Preds look ahead in a challenging remaining schedule.
- Ryan Johansen’s 23rd goal of the season was BIG. The Preds had one point in the bag, but they definitely needed two. RyJo has been on an offensive tear lately and has proven that he is clutch for this team.