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game recap

Sharks shut out Predators in Game 7

San Jose advances to play St. Louis in Western Conference Final

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Joe Pavelski and Joel Ward scored first-period goals, Martin Jones had a 20-save shutout, and the San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 to win their Western Conference Second Round series at SAP Center on Thursday.

The Sharks advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fourth time, the first since 2011. They will play the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

San Jose went 4-0 at home against Nashville in the best-of-7 series and is 8-0 against the Predators in the Stanley Cup Playoffs here. The Sharks are 5-1 at SAP Center during the playoffs after going 18-20-3 at home during the regular season.

"Everybody has been talking about how bad we've been at home," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "This little stretch we've been pretty darn good. It's nice to see."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Sharks advance to WCF with Game 7 win

Logan Couture scored early in the second period and had two assists, giving him 11 points (six goals) in the series, a Sharks record. He leads all playoff scorers with 17 points. Thornton and Patrick Marleau scored in the third period.

Jones made 12 of his 20 saves in the third period to earn the first playoff shutout of his NHL career.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne allowed five goals on 26 shots before he was replaced by Carter Hutton with 16:06 to play after Marleau made it 5-0.

The Sharks were outshot 32-18 in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Predators in Game 6 on Monday at Bridgestone Arena, losing for the third straight time there. But San Jose outshot Nashville 17-3 in the first period Thursday and built a 2-0 lead on goals by Pavelski and Ward.

"They were the better team tonight," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "We couldn't get anything going. It was tough. They deserved it. It was a great series back and forth, but they played better tonight."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Pavelski beats Rinne on the power play

Pavelski scored at 8:22 on the power play with Viktor Arvidsson in the penalty box for delay of game. Thornton sent the puck below the goal line to Marleau, who found Pavelski in the lower right circle. Pavelski, who had been knocked down by Rinne seconds earlier, scored on a wrist shot into the upper left corner.

The goal was Pavelski's ninth of the playoffs; he is tied with Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the League lead. San Jose is 8-0 in the playoffs when Pavelski gets at least one point.

"I think once you get that first one, you've just got to keep going," Marleau said. "Once you get a couple, then you start feeling it."

Ward made it 2-0 at 16:51 with a goal against his former team. He tracked down the puck in the neutral zone, chipped it past Predators defenseman Roman Josi at the blue line and then beat Rinne on a breakaway from close range through the five-hole. It was Ward's third career goal in a Game 7.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Ward beats Rinne five-hole

"It's fun to contribute," Ward said. "It was definitely a disappointing loss in Game 6. It was good to come back home. I think our fans are unbelievable and rallied us and got behind us really good. That gave us some good energy for sure."

Couture scored 36 seconds into the second period to make it 3-0. He beat Rinne for an unassisted goal after a turnover by Weber in Nashville's end.

"It didn't help that they scored right away in the second period," Rinne said. "Tonight they outplayed us. They got off to a good start and we were unable to match it.

"It's very difficult right now. We worked so hard to get to this point. You never know when you're going to get this chance. Guys get older. That's the worst feeling. It's an empty feeling."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm7: Thornton buries rebound for PPG

Thornton made it 4-0 by scoring a power-play goal 32 seconds into the third period. With Mattias Ekholm in the penalty box for cross-checking Tommy Wingels at the end of the second period, the Sharks came into the Nashville zone on a 4-on-1 break; Rinne stopped Couture's shot from the slot, but Thornton knocked in the rebound for San Jose's eighth power-play goal of the series.

Marleau scored at 3:54, taking a cross-ice pass from Couture on a 2-on-1 and beating Rinne from the right circle.

Sharks third-line forward Matt Nieto missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Wingels returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 and was credited with five hits and a shot on goal in 14:24 of ice time.

"We've been saying it all year, we're just deep," Thornton said. "We have a deep team. We roll four lines. We roll with six [defensemen]. We have so much trust with each other that whoever goes over the board we have confidence they will do that job."

Video: Sharks advance with 5-0 win against Preds in Game 7

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