SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Getting healthy gave Jonathan Cheechoo a chance to get back his rhythm. And then some.
Cheechoo scored three goals, including the game-winner with 4:55 left, to help the San Jose Sharks win their third straight over Nashville, beating the Predators 4-3 on Saturday night.
Cheechoo, who combined for 93 goals the previous two years, returned from a groin injury in late December, and had just four in his first 28 games. He now has 10 in his last 17 games.
"I've been feeling good since about Christmas time," Cheechoo said. "I've been working hard, and the puck has just been bouncing my way. The game winner was the memorable one. You want to help your team out like that, so when you get to do that, it makes it more special."
Milan Michalek also scored for the Sharks, who won for the sixth time in eight games. Joe Thornton had three assists and needs one more for 500 for his career.
"I'm really happy for Cheech that he scored a hat trick," Michalek said. "Our line didn't play well last game, so I'm happy we stepped it up and scored a few goals."
San Jose coach Ron Wilson earned his 500th career victory, moving into a tie with Toe Blake for 10th place on the all-time list - one behind Pat Burns. Now he's headed to Disneyland.
"I'm going to fly down and take my grand daughter to celebrate 500," Wilson said. "She walks now so to watch her run around and have fun will be nice. If we lost I would not have gone because I would have been sulking all day."
Vernon Fiddler scored twice for the Predators, who failed to get a point for just the fourth time in 19 games. Scott Nichol also scored for Nashville, which has won in San Jose once in the past four years.
"We haven't had great success here for a while," Predators' coach Barry Trotz said. "When we got it to 3-3, I thought we had pretty good momentum. When you score three points you have to get a point."
|San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo (14) scores his third goal of the game against the Nashville Predators in the third period on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008, in San Jose, CA. (AP Photo/Darryl Bush)|
Cheechoo recorded his ninth career hat trick on the power play after taking a tip from Michalek in front of Nashville's net and firing it in on his backhand. Thornton threw the puck toward the crease, setting up Michalek's deflection.
"That was a heck of a play on their part," Mason said. "Thornton made a nice pass and Michalek made that touch pass to Cheechoo, who spun off and got the puck in. We kind of broke down in the last half of the third period."
Nashville goalie Chris Mason is winless in seven games against the Sharks.
Michalek gave the Sharks a 3-2 lead at 7:17 of the third period. However, the Predators tied it again when Fiddler dug the puck out of the corner and made a perfect pass to Nichol, who scored with a hard wrist shot with 8:19 left.
"We have top find more ways to get to the net," Fiddler said. "We had enough goals; we just made a couple of mistakes."
Cheechoo opened the scoring at 4:48 of the first period after taking a pass from Thornton.
"It's a special milestone for coach to reach 500," Cheechoo said. "It's pretty amazing and it's nice to be a part of that."
Fiddler tied it at 7:00 as he held the puck under pressure behind the net and then skated out and squeezed it past Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
Fiddler gave Nashville a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 7:12 of the second period.
Cheechoo tied it for San Jose a little more than 6 minutes later.
Notes: Thornton has 20 points in his last 14 games. ... Fiddler recorded his second multigoal game of the season and has three goals in his last 31 games. ... The Sharks outshot Nashville 12-3 in the second period. ... The Sharks have two games remaining on their season-high six-game homestand. ... Sharks C Patrick Marleau left the game with a groin injury. ... Predators RW Alexander Radulov had his career-high eight-game point streak snapped.