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Instant analysis: Sharks at Predators, Game 3

Penalty kill, fan support help Nashville get first win

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

The Predators erased a lead for the first time in this series with goals from James Neal, Shea Weber, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg.

San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.

What we learned: Home ice is huge. The Predators looked like a different team in Game 3. They used the ability to dictate the line matchups on the ice and the momentum provided by their rollicking fans to find a way to stage a comeback against a San Jose team that held them to one even-strength goal in the first two games. At every stoppage, but particularly during TV timeouts, the fans stood and cheered for the Predators, providing an electric atmosphere.

Video: SJS@NSh, Gm3: Wilson bangs it in off the post

What this means for the Predators: They're alive. Though there was an attempt to paint a bright picture Tuesday morning, the Predators knew this was a must-win game if they had hopes of making this a series. And they played with the desperation of a team facing a season-defining game. In the crucial second period, Nashville held San Jose to nine shots, four in quick succession on a late power play for San Jose.

What this means for the Sharks: Not much. San Jose lost Game 3 in the last round, to the Los Angeles Kings, and responded with two straight wins to send the higher seed home. The only difference is Game 3 in the first round was in San Jose and this one was on the road. It is San Jose's first road loss since March 17. They were 3-0 on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose could not generate their traditional volume of shots and had trouble getting its power play in a position to provide the momentum it did in the first two games.

Key moment: Nashville defenseman Barrett Jackman went off for a hooking penalty with 1:39 remaining in the second period with the Predators leading 2-1. San Jose was 3-of-5 on the power play in this series entering Game 3, so it was a dangerous time for the home team. The Sharks did manage four shots, but Predators right wing Miikka Salomaki had the best scoring chance on a breakaway after a turnover by San Jose center Joe Thornton. Nashville forwards Colton Sissons and Paul Gaustad each blocked a shot in the final 10 seconds.

Unsung player of the game: Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm has been very good for a very long time this season, but it goes unnoticed playing in the shadows of elite defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi. It was hard to ignore Ekholm in Game 3; he played 24:35, including time on the power play and penalty kill. His pass for a one-timer by Neal on a second-period power was a thing of beauty.

What's next: Game 4 is here on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2). Can the Predators keep their home magic rolling and send the series back to San Jose tied 2-2?

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