NASHVILLE – Shea Weber
said he saw the open ice and instinctively jumped into the rush.
Seconds later, he fired home a wrist shot to finish off a 3-on-2 and the Nashville Predators
had a 2-0 lead just 3:23 into the game, forcing San Jose coach Todd McLellan to call timeout.
"Two shots, two goals, two mistakes -- game over," McLellan said. "Pretty simple."
The Sharks never recovered and wound up losing 6-2, falling to 2-5-1 on a nine-game trip that ends Sunday in Minnesota.
Weber is known for having one of the heaviest slap shots in the League – he scored that way, too, on Saturday and now is tied for the NHL lead in goals by a defenseman with 14 – but his wrist shot is underappreciated. Over the last few seasons, Preds coach Barry Trotz said Weber's decision to join the rush is an element of his game that he's added, making him even more potent in what is shaping up as a Norris Trophy-caliber season for the Preds captain, who also is plus-17.
"He's the whole package, he's strong, he's got great leadership skills and he's got a bomb for a shot," Trotz said. "What he's added the last couple of years is he jumps into the rush, which he did in junior and all that, but his timing is very good right now. He's putting pucks to the net. What he's learned is how to put pucks to the net versus just trying to wind up and shoot as hard as he could. He used to get a lot more shots blocked, now he gets them through."
The Predators have now earned points in all four games since defenseman Hal Gill
, acquired in a trade on Feb. 17, has been in the lineup (3-0-1).
San Jose fell back into some bad habits – too many penalties, poor defense -- in what is turning out to be a dismal trip that has dropped them two points behind Phoenix in the Pacific Division.
McLellan said his team had just had a meeting to discuss those defensive miscues, but to no avail. He said he was more concerned about getting the team's game going than he was about falling out of first.
"You play hard the rest of the night and expend a lot of energy when you know you have to play the next night, but the game's over four minutes in," he said. "… I've said, this all along: If we're going to give up four or five a night and think we're winning, we're dreaming. We have to keep pounding and pounding and pounding that into their heads until they absolutely believe it."
Nashville jumped on Sharks goalie Antti Niemi
early, knocking him from the game with three goals on seven shots. Nashville's Pekka Rinne
made 32 saves for his League-best 34th win.
Weber's second goal came on a rocket of a slap shot at 12:20 of the second. Weber didn't even look like he had much of a shooting lane on the power play when David Legwand
passed him the puck back at the point, but the puck screamed out of the net almost as fast as it went in past Thomas Greiss
After the game, Weber admitted that he did not have much of a lane – but, as Trotz said, he has learned the skill of getting pucks through.
"Not really," he said of the shooting lane. "I think it might have actually hit the guy in front of me. It was a little bit of a lucky bounce."
San Jose moved within a goal 23 seconds into the second period, as Patrick Marleau
eluded several Nashville defenders along the wall and made a backhand feed to Joe Pavelski
at the right circle and Pavelski one-time his 23rd goal past Rinne to make it 3-2.
With Patric Hornqvist
back for the first time in six games, the Predators showed some newly configured lines. That meant Colin Wilson
and Jordin Tootoo
were playing on the same line for a rare occasion. Just 2:03 into the game, they hooked up for a goal. Tootoo blocked Sharks defenseman Colin White
's attempt to keep the puck in Nashville's zone and started the rush the other way up the right wing. Tootoo passed to a wide open Colin Wilson
, who wristed the puck past Niemi. Wilson has three goals in his last four games.
Weber scored the 3-on-2 goal 80 seconds later. From the center, Martin Erat
passed on the right side to Weber, who finished off the play with a wrist shot. Erat picked up a goal, his 14th, and an assist, his 32nd, on the night one day after his wife gave birth with the couple's first child, a boy. Since Jan. 1, he has six goals and 17 assists in 24 games. Trotz said Erat was exhausted and playing on adrenaline, as he did not get much sleep the day before.
"He's gonna crash," Trotz said. "He's really excited."
Erat's line with Sergei Kostitsyn
and Mike Fisher
has been one of the NHL's best for the past two months.
"We're trying to play solid (defense)," said Erat, who was still wearing a hospital bracelet after the game, "… and we're doing a pretty good job on the rush, 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s and most nights Shea and (fellow All-Star defenseman Ryan Suter
) are playing behind us. It's a big help for us."
San Jose cut the lead in half when Rinne bobbled Pavelski's point shot with his catching glove, falling to the ice in the process. Marleau put the puck into an empty net over the prone Rinne at 10:58 for his 26th goal.
With 4:02 left in the first period, Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein
one-timed a pass from Roman Josi
between Niemi's pads. That was the end of the night for Niemi.
San Jose had a goal by Marleau disallowed with 11:04 left in regulation, as it was ruled Pavelski interfered with Rinne.
Erat added an empty-net goal with 2:00 left in regulation to make it 5-2 before Nick Spaling
made it 6-2 at 19:18.
"I'm disappointed the line goes out and gives up the sixth," McLellan said. "That's unacceptable."