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Johnston: Fatigue to be factor for Predators, Sharks

Former NHL coach says first goal especially important in Game 7

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

For additional insight into the Western Conference Second Round series between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, has enlisted the help of Mike Johnston to break down the action. Johnston will be checking in throughout the series.

Johnston, 59, most recently was the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, compiling a 58-37-15 record during his tenure. He was coach and general manager of Portland of the Western Hockey League from 2008-2014. He also has been an assistant for the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks.

The 4-3 overtime victory by the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Monday was all about momentum shifts, former NHL coach Mike Johnston said.

The goal by Nashville defenseman Roman Josi late in the first period, very much against the run of play, was a big one, but it became even bigger when center Ryan Johansen scored early in the second to tie it after the Predators trailed 2-0, Johnston said.

Johnston was impressed with the Predators' top line all game after coach Peter Laviolette moved rookie forward Viktor Arvidsson up to play on it with Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

What made the move so gutsy, Johnston said, was that Arvidsson is a 23-year-old-rookie with very little track record of playing top-six minutes.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Arvidsson's backhander wins it in OT

"As a coach, you are always thinking, 'Can I put him up there?'" Johnston said. "Peter must have known something and had confidence in Arvidsson. It certainly brought speed to that line. He had to get the Johansen line going somehow and he did with that move."

It is the third time in this series that a line change has had a tangible effect.

In Game 3, Laviolette put James Neal and Colin Wilson on a line with center Mike Fisher. That line has been the most dominant in the series in the past four games.

In Game 5, San Jose coach Peter DeBoer moved Patrick Marleau on to the second line with center Logan Couture and left wing Joonas Donskoi, and they drove the Sharks to a dominant victory.

In Game 6, it was the Arvidsson move.

Johnston also liked the way the Nashville defense activated, particularly Josi, who he said was dangerous offensively throughout.

Johnston thought Anthony Bitetto, the No. 6 defenseman, was really good in Game 6.

"He was really involved in the attack during the game," Johnston. "I thought that was one of his best games of the series."

The final thing that impressed Johnston was Nashville's swagger. Even when they fell behind 3-2 on a power-play goal by Couture at 10:04 of the third period, the Predators kept coming.

"They didn't seem to buckle at all," Johnston said. "They seem to have a lot of confidence at home with that crowd."

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Tierney nets a pair in the 1st period

Now, this series moves on to Game 7 at SAP Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"I always think in Game 7s, the team that grabs the early lead will have the advantage because there is usually a fatigue factor, and there has to be a fatigue factor in this series," Johnston said.

The Sharks have to get out of the gate fast, using the energy of the home fans and getting the forecheck going to put the Predators under pressure, Johnston said.

The Predators have to absorb that early push, Johnston said. Generally, Nashville does that by activating its defense and counterpunching on the attack.

"When Nashville hasn't been good in this series, it's because they are not skating and they are not on their toes," Johnston said. "They have to be ready from the start in Game 7 and they have to skate."

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