SAN JOSE, Calif. – It was early in third period Saturday night at HP Pavilion, and the Nashville Predators were staring at a 3-1 deficit against the San Jose Sharks after forward Logan Couture banged home a goal.
Instead of panicking, the Predators went to work. Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Ryan Suter scored back-to-back goals to pull Nashville even before David Legwand got his second of the night at 2:53 in overtime, giving the Predators an improbable 4-3 victory before a stunned sellout crowd at HP Pavilion.
"This is what our team is all about," said Hornqvist, who extended his goal-scoring streak to five games. "We never stop working. We don't have the big superstars, but we have a helluva team effort and we showed it tonight."
On his game-winner, Legwand dropped a pass behind him to defenseman Francis Bouillon, who sent the puck back to him in the crease, where he ripped a shot past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.
"As a defenseman when it's overtime, you've got to try to jump in the play, and when I saw Legwand go into the zone with the puck, I read him pretty good," Bouillon said. "When I saw him curling in the middle, I just passed behind him. He dropped it to me. It's kind of a set play. You always know when somebody drops it to you he's going to keep going to the net. So I saw him back at the net and I gave it back to him."
Legwand did the rest, adding a game-winner to his first goal, which put the Predators ahead 1-0 early in the second.
"He was really strong today," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Legwand. "I thought he had a lot of detail with the way he was skating, and he was using his speed. I just thought he had a real strong game. For the most part they picked Joe Thornton to play against Leggy tonight. I think Leggy took it a little personal. That was good for us."
Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat and Couture scored for the Sharks. Pavelski's goal was his team-best ninth, while Havlat's, on the power play, was his first goal since coming to the Sharks during the offseason from Minnesota in a trade for Dany Heatley.
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who signed a seven-year, $49 million contract extension on Thursday, stopped 35 of 38 shots.
Niemi, who was pulled just two minutes and four seconds into Thursday night's game against Pittsburgh after allowing two goals, got the start and stopped 31 of 35 shots. The Sharks rallied from that 2-0 hole to win 4-3 in a shootout. This time, they started strong and finished poorly.
"Sometimes when you focus on the start as much as we did, we got it," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But the back end of our game wasn't what we wanted. So, we're trying to find a full 60 minutes from our guys. But obviously the effort tonight was much better than it was against Pittsburgh. A couple of mistakes led to goals. I think we can clean that up and expect the same start we did tonight on Monday against L.A. and a better finish."
Pavelski nearly won it late in regulation, but Rinne somehow smothered his shot from close range on the power play. Rinne also stopped two power-play blasts from defenseman Dan Boyle before the third period ended.
"With about 10 seconds to go to go," Trotz said, "you saw why Pekka Rinne is signed long term. He made a great save to preserve that in regulation."
The Predators killed the final 56 seconds of that power play in overtime.
"Huge one," Rinne said of the comeback. "This year we haven't really done that too much. We've given up leads a few times. We've been known to be a really resilient team and always coming back in the past. We are now doing the same thing. It's a great sign. We never gave up. That was a huge win overall.
After a scoreless first period, the action picked up in the second. Legwand gave Nashville a 1-0 lead at 1:02, firing a rocket from near the blue line that got past Niemi.
The Sharks answered with goals by Pavelski and one by Havlat on the power play.
Pavelski's goal was the end product of two quick passes. Thornton, skating down the left wing, hit Couture in the crease who whipped a pass to Pavelski in the left circle. Before Rinne could readjust, Pavelski blasted the puck past him, making it 1-1 at 4:40.
Havlat put San Jose ahead 2-1 at 9:50 as the Sharks turned the area in front of Rinne into a mosh pit. Ryane Clowe and Couture both tried to jam the puck past Rinne from close range, but it was Havlat who finally succeeded, burying a rebound.
"It's nice to get a goal, but unfortunately it didn't help to win the game," Havlat said. "I would rather not score the goal and win the game. We just have to get better after we take the lead. We have to keep playing and bury the teams if we're up by two goals."
The Sharks made it 3-1 just 52 seconds in the third after Pavelski sent the puck from long range behind Rinne and off the new, livelier boards at HP Pavilion. The puck rocketed back and skipped over Rinne's stick to a hard-charging Couture, who blasted it into the net.
"It was tough," Legwand said. "We knew it was a bounce there. It got over Pekka's stick. We just kept battling. We got the second one there then the big one by (Suter) on the power play was huge for us. To come up with a kill in overtime and the last minute of the third is huge also to get to overtime, get the point and then get the two"
The Predators, known most for their shutdown defense, scored two quick goals, tying the game 3-3 with 14:02 still left to play. Hornqvist's wrister from close range cut the Sharks' lead to 3-2 at 2:57. Suter tied it with a power-play goal, ripping a shot from the high slot through traffic and past Niemi.
"He goes to the net hard," Trotz said of Hornqvist. "He's got lots of courage. He's really fearless going to the net. He's going to the net and getting rewarded"
McLellan juggled his top three lines after falling behind Pittsburgh 2-0 early on Thursday, and he opened the game against Nashville with those new-look lines that fueled a shootout win.
Marleau, a regular wing on the first line, centered the second line, trading places with Couture, who joined Thornton and Pavelski on the top line. Marleau joined Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell, who moved up from the third line and traded spots with Havlat. Havlat skated on the third line with center Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn.
Predators coach Barry Trotz had to do a little juggling of his own, thanks in part to injuries that kept defenseman Kevin Klein (lower body) and forward Sergei Kostitsyn (upper body) out of the lineup.
Trotz, though, also decided to split his top defensive pair of Suter and Shea Weber to counter the Sharks more balanced attack.
"We saw how San Jose has lined up their lines," Trotz said. "We knew we had to do that because they have multiple lines that are pretty dangerous."