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Predators 4, Sharks 3 @NHLdotcom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Nashville Predators signed Paul Kariya to boost their postseason hopes. He showed them just how effective he can be when it matters most.

Adam Hall scored the go-ahead goal at 12:06 of the third period by redirecting a shot by Kariya, who assisted on all four of Nashville's power-play goals. That carried the Predators to a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday in the opener of the first-round Western Conference series.

"Anytime your best player gets on the scoreboard, you usually do win," Predators center Mike Sillinger said of Kariya.

"He finds a way to pick up points, and that's what your best players have to do to be successful. He makes great plays. He's got great speed, great vision. He's a scorer, he's a passer."

Game 2 is Sunday afternoon in Nashville.

Sillinger scored and had an assist, and Martin Erat and rookie defenseman Shea Weber both netted their first career playoff goals as the Predators set a franchise record with the four power-play goals.

"It's a good start for us," said Kariya, who has 11 points in his last four games. "It's going to be a long series. That's a great hockey club over there. Our power play was clicking tonight, and (Chris Mason) Mase played very well and managed to get the win."

Mason made his playoff debut and did a fine job in replacing No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, who carried the Predators to 36 victories but is out for the season with a blood condition. A day after turning 30, Mason made 31 saves in winning his seventh straight game.

"It hasn't quite really sunk in. But right now it feels good, and I'm trying to relax and catch my breath and take it in. We still have a lot of work to do, but getting the first definitely is awesome," Mason said.

The Predators opened their second playoff appearance on their own ice where they led the NHL with a 32-8-1 record. And the sellout crowd roared for every move.

The fifth-seeded Sharks had won eight of nine, and they also brought in the NHL's top offensive threats in Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Thornton had a league-high 125 points, and Cheechoo led the NHL with 56 goals, but they were held to just one assist from Thornton.

He promised the Sharks would improve on Sunday.

"We know we've got to get better to beat this team. We've got to give them credit. They played well," Thornton said.

Mark Smith scored 4:12 in for the Sharks, who went 30-8 in the regular season when taking a 1-0 lead. Nils Ekman was set up by Thornton in the second period, and Scott Thornton tied it 3-3 in the third.

San Jose picked up its seventh penalty - for having too many men on the ice - and Kariya took a shot from near the blue line that Hall tipped in for the winner 34 seconds later.

"He's quick," San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan said of Kariya. "We've got to take passes away, take options away, take away shooting lanes."

The Predators outshot San Jose 14-8 in the opening period and kept the puck away from Mason. But San Jose, the NHL's third-least penalized team, was whistled for three penalties within 10 minutes. Nashville made the Sharks pay by going 4-of-7 with the man advantage.

"We've got to do a better job penalty killing," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "We need to stay out of the box."

Sillinger tied it 27 seconds into the first power play. The puck was redirected in front and went past Vesa Toskala, who also made his postseason debut in net.

Officials reviewed the goal for a possible high stick infraction, but the score stood.

Cheechoo then was called for interference at 9:31, and Erat scored on a slap shot from the left circle at 10:56 for a 2-1 lead. Kariya found Weber in front for the third power-play goal with 19:56 left to make it 3-1.

Thornton got the puck to Ekman in the right circle, and he beat Mason high at 8:50 of the second to pull San Jose within 3-2.

But Mason stopped Matt Carle in front while the teams skated 4-on-4 late in the period, then made a right-pad stop off a shot from Ville Nieminen during a 3-on-1 break.

Scott Thornton tied it at 10:31 of the third, but Kariya got the puck to Hall 1:35 later to put Nashville ahead to stay.

Notes: Kariya's first three assists gave him seven points within four periods. He extended his point streak to four games and has three goals and eight assists in that span. ... San Jose was 7-9 during the regular season when trailing after one period. Nashville went 30-1-4 when leading after two periods.

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