After winning the franchise’s first Game 7, the Predators hopped onto a plane and headed to Northern California to face the San Jose Sharks, who eliminated crowd favor L.A. Kings in five games. Underdogs yet again, the Predators would either see one of two things from the Sharks: a well rested group or a slow-to-go team. While knocking out your opponent in as few games as possible can be a good thing, it can also knock you out of your winning rhythm. And while going all seven games can keep you in that rhythm, it can also cause a burn out. So, how did Game 1 between the Sharks and Predators turn out?
Well, Predators playoff savior Craig Smith’s nagging lower-body injury kept him from the lineup in Game 1 against the Sharks. With Craig Smith, the Predators are 4-0. Without Craig Smith? 0-4. So who did Nashville pull in to replace Smith? Eric Nystrom, who did not see any ice time during the first series against Anaheim. Pontus Aberg was initially recalled by the team from Milwaukee earlier in the day, but was ultimately scratched before game time.
Also, this happened right before the game:
No one is sure where this little black cat came from, but it wasn’t the thing superstitious fans wanted to see scurrying across the ice before the game.
While neither team managed to score during the first, there were definitely plenty of close calls. This particular shot-on-goal had to be reviewed. Of course, there’s no way it would’ve been deemed a goal, there is still the rule that it could have been:
San Jose would send eleven shots at Pekka, with the Finnish wall managing to stop them all. Nashville would notch twelve shots against Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Nashville would come out swinging in the Second Period, with Mike Fisher notching a “top cheddar” goal to take the lead on the power play:
Fisher and the Predators would hold onto that lead throughout the period, giving Nashville some glorious hope going into the third period.
Ah, but that sweet lead by the Predators would be short lived as the Sharks found their rhythm and began attacking the net, while Nashville’s juice began to run out. At 2:37, Tomas Hertl notch a beauty of a goal, finding the one hole in Rinne’s armor to tie the game at 1-1 on the power play.
Former Nashville Predator Joel Ward would give San Jose the lead at 11:49 with a breakaway goal, pulling a feisty move to trick Rinne into giving him plenty of room. Shortly thereafter, Logan Couture would give San Jose a 3-1 lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. The wheels, it seems, had fallen off the Predators wagon and the Sharks were ready to bounce on their opportunities.
However, Ryan Johansen would give Nashville a glimmer of hope at 18:11 making the score 3-2 with plenty of time left to tie it up. Unfortunately, both Couture and Tommy Wingels would pound two empty-netters, sealing Game 1 in favor of the San Jose Sharks 5-2.
So what happened? It all came down to the fact that Nashville hit an exhaustive wall and the Sharks, who played rather steady throughout the first and second periods, hit the rocket boosters in the third period and powered past the worn out Predators. While some saw the first and second periods as being rather slow, the Sharks knew exactly what they were doing and made some seriously smart moves, which ultimately lead to their victory.
So what can Nashville do to avoid this tomorrow night? Honestly, it’s a matter of regrouping and coming out refreshed and ready to play a smart, even strength game. The Sharks feed on power play opportunities, and Nashville must stay out of the box on Sunday. I know that is definitely a common sense strategy, but sometimes you have to go back to the basics to seek victory. Nashville will also need to keep a consistent flow through all three periods to outsmart the Sharks. It was clear last night that the Sharks waited until Nashville began losing steam before taking charge and it worked well for them. Though coming out on fire is a good thing, hoping that one goal will keep the Sharks at bay is just not going to work.
Before I am finished, I do have to mention this that happened:
This should’ve been where the Sharks originally tied the game, but somehow, someway, the puck just stopped short of the goal line. Lucky for Nashville at the time, but the Sharks would find a way to score anyways.
Losing Game 1 is not the end of the series by any means. However, Nashville will need to take away some things from this game and apply them to Sunday night’s game to avoid going 0-2 in this series.