NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - San Jose coach Ron Wilson can rest easy now for a few days along with his Sharks.
Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier each scored power-play goals, and the Sharks made quick work of the Nashville Predators, eliminating them with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Sunday night to reach the Western Conference semifinals for a second straight season.
"It obviously takes away some of the anxiety you feel when you don't close a team out," Wilson said.
"These are the games when you get the most nervous in a clinching-type game because if they win, they are going to gather some momentum. ... We wanted to finish it off to get some rest."
Now Wilson doesn't have to worry about blowing a 3-1 lead, just resting up and waiting to see who the fifth-seeded Sharks play in the semifinals with the possibility of starting at home next weekend.
"It'll be good to get a couple days to refresh and energize the body," Sharks center Joe Thornton said.
Nashville had been hoping to tap what had been the NHL's best home-ice advantage in the regular season to force Game 6 on Tuesday night in San Jose. But the Predators couldn't sell out the arena, and their best wasn't enough on a night when Marleau - San Jose's captain - scored his postseason-best seventh goal.
"He played best when it mattered most," Wilson said.
With Marleau adding to the offensive power of the NHL's best point producer in Thornton and top goal scorer in Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks won their fourth straight game.
"They were on a roll, but we certainly did it to ourselves," Nashville goalie Chris Mason said.
The Predators refused to go away easily. Paul Kariya scored his second goal of the series on a power play at 11:06 of the third, pulling Nashville to 2-1. Nashville got another man advantage, hoping to tie the game.
But Vesa Toskala smothered the only power-play shot by Marek Zidlicky with 4:21 left, and the Sharks ran out the clock even as the Predators pulled their goalie in the final minute for the extra attacker.
"Without him, we'd probably be going home for Game 6," Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren said.
San Jose had too much for Nashville. With top goalie Tomas Vokoun out with a blood condition, the Predators were outshot 171-137 in the series, gave up 10 power-play goals and matched their longest skid of the season in bowing out.
"Penalties killed us all year even after being addressed," Kariya said. "Guys need to adjust to calls."
Marleau's goal came a minute after officials missed McLaren decking Kariya down to the ice, instead calling Nashville left wing Martin Erat for retaliating.
"It's his penalty to take," McLaren said. "I really don't know what he was thinking. I thought it was a clean hit. In the end, it cost them the game-winning goal. Something we try to do is draw penalties when we can."
That had the fans booing the officials lustily through most of the power play. It didn't matter as Thornton brought the puck up and passed it to Marleau in the crease where he tipped it past Chris Mason's outstretched skate.
The Predators opened with a flurry and took nine of the first 12 shots. But Toskala stopped each shot, and the Sharks took eight of the last nine shots in the first period.
"We were really expecting that storm coming from a desperate team down 3-1," Toskala said. "We survived that first end, and that was the key."
Scott Hannan started the first goal by getting the puck to Milan Michalek who took it up the left boards and shot from the left circle, and Bernier was given credit for bumping it past Mason with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. The green light marking the end of the period went off, and officials reviewed the video.
With fans chanting "No goal! No goal!" officials ruled the puck crossed the line before time expired.
Notes: San Jose scratched center Alyn McCauley. He has played most of this season with a leg injury that may need surgery. ... Nashville scratched rookie defenseman Shea Weber for the first time in this series, giving veteran center Yanic Perreault his first start with defenseman Marek Zidlicky feeling better. ... The Predators reassigned right wing Jordin Tootoo, who played in the first three games of this series, to Milwaukee of the AHL on Sunday. He scored a goal in Milwaukee's 4-1 Game 7 win over Iowa. ... Nashville coach Barry Trotz is 3-8 in the playoffs, while San Jose coach Ron Wilson's career record is 33-32.
|PPG - Milan Michalek (1) ASST: Scott Hannan (1)|
1 - 0 SJS
|PPG - Patrick Marleau (7) ASST: Joe Thornton (4), Tom Preissing (6)|
2 - 0 SJS
|PPG - Paul Kariya (2) ASST: Steve Sullivan (2), Marek Zidlicky (1)|
2 - 1 SJS
|Christian Ehrhoff Cross checking against Scottie Upshall|
|Grant Stevenson Hooking|
|Yanic Perreault Tripping against Milan Michalek|
|Danny Markov Hooking against Joe Thornton|
|Brendan Witt Slashing against Mark Smith|
|Steve Bernier Interference against Kimmo Timonen|
|Martin Erat Roughing|
|Marek Zidlicky Tripping against Joe Thornton|
|Tom Preissing Hi-sticking against Paul Kariya|
|Christian Ehrhoff Holding against Paul Kariya|