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Power play comes alive in Sharks' 2-1 win

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan has been preaching the importance to his slumping team of taking more shots and putting more pressure on opposing goaltenders.

Message received.

The Sharks unleashed 39 shots -- 16 in the first period alone -- in a 2-1 victory Saturday night against the Nashville Predators at HP Pavilion.

Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski scored power-play goals for the Sharks, and goaltender Antti Niemi made 18 saves as San Jose beat Nashville for the first time in three tries this season.

"It was received," McLellan said. "We played hard. That message had been there for five years. It was just a matter of reminding them. The shooting part is great. But it's the re-attacking of the net, it's getting to the blue paint, it's doing it over and over again. I think our players are prepared to shoot the puck. But you have to shoot, get it back and do it again."

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead into the final period, but Nashville's Gabriel Bourque scored a shorthanded goal at 14:30 in the third, cutting San Jose's lead in half.

The puck got past Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Irwin in the neutral zone along the left boards, and Bourque jumped on it. He streaked toward Niemi on a breakaway, faked right then beat Niemi the other way.

The Sharks withstood a furious push in the final minutes to secure the win and jump from eighth to fifth place in the Western Conference with 24 points, one more than Nashville, which dropped from sixth to eighth.

"So it was a huge win, against a team that was in front of us," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who had two assists, giving him 1,100 points for his career, 56th on the National Hockey League's all-time list. "We played good hockey at home. Now we just got to take it on the road."

Before facing Nashville, the Sharks had just three power-play goals in their previous 59 chances over 14 games. They came up empty on their first power play Saturday before Boyle put the puck in the net for his third goal of the season -- all on power plays. The Sharks scored multiple power-play goals for the first time since scoring two on Jan. 27 in a 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

"If you get that many shots, you're bound to score more goals," said Sharks forward Logan Couture, who had two assists. "We had a lot of good looks, a lot of wraps and jams, which we wanted to going into tonight, and we need to build off that. They're a good defensive team, Nashville. They got a great goalie. So if we get 40 shots every night, I think we're going to score more than two."

The Predators had defeated the Sharks twice this season before Saturday night's game -- 2-1 in a shootout on Feb. 2 at HP Pavilion and 1-0 on Feb. 12 in overtime at Nashville. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 51 of 52 shots in those two wins -- as well as all three shots he faced in the shootout.

This time, the Sharks put two shots past Rinne and sent Nashville to its fourth loss in its past five games.

The Sharks outshot the Predators 16-6 in the first period and built a 1-0 lead on Boyle's power-play goal with 2:32 left in the first with Kevin Klein in the box for slashing Couture.

Boyle took a pass near the blue line from Thornton and ripped a shot that got through traffic and past Rinne. The fact that Predators penalty killer Paul Gaustad had lost his stick improved Boyle's odds of scoring -- so did that fact that Pavelski had planted himself in front of Rinne.

"The two penalties we took were unnecessary and we didn't kill them," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They scored within about 25 seconds (on) each (of) the penalties. Especially on the second goal. We knew they were a fast start team. We knew they were going to throw a lot of pucks at the net. That was stated by their team management and coaches. We had to get through that first period. They jumped on us early and got zone time.

"On the first power play, it was Gaustad. His stick broke off the draw and they just shot the puck with a screen. And the second one was down low. It was a 2-on-2 battle. We lost position and we were a little soft. The guy just came around because we had lost the low battle and the guy just came around the net and chipped it over his pads. It was a battle and broken stick that cost us the game."

Nashville nearly scored a shorthanded goal on San Jose's first power play. Martin Erat had the puck on a breakaway, but Niemi made a pad save of his shot that stayed low.

In the second period, the Sharks kept the pressure on, outshooting Nashville 14-6. Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal at 9:12 of the second with Ryan Ellis in the penalty box for tripping Andrew Desjardins.

From behind the net, Couture reached out and poked the puck toward Pavelski, who got position inside of Klein near the crease. Pavelski ripped a shot past Rinne, inside the left post, for his seventh goal of the season.

"We haven't had a good penalty kill on the road," Rinne said. "Tonight they got two on their power play and that's a credit to them. I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job on PK but we just have to find a way to win these games. Everything is so crucial now. I don't any of us were very happy tonight by how we played. We didn't play the way we wanted to play."

Both teams entered the game mired in offensive slumps. The Predators ranked last in the League at 2.05 goals per game, while the Sharks were 26th at 2.21. San Jose had scored 15 goals in its previous 12 games, going 2-6-4 during that span. The Predators were coming off a 5-1 loss Wednesday to the Anaheim Ducks and had been shut out in two of their three games before that, although they did score five goals in an overtime win against the Dallas Stars.

"I thought maybe the offense dominated the game," McLellan said. "Our offensive play was much better. We played in their zone a lot more. We had a lot of offensive zone faceoffs, a lot of second chances in and around the net and as a result you don't have to play in our end as much. When we were there we played pretty well. Some of their best chances came on some miscues on our power play, a couple of young players, but we'll throw them right back out there and make sure they're better."

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