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Sharks 3, Predators 0 @NHLdotcom

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The San Jose Sharks kept their cool with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the house.

Not even a reminder to be careful helped the Nashville Predators.

The Sharks cleaned up their act after giving up four power-play goals in the playoff opener, and Jonathan Cheechoo had a goal and two assists as San Jose beat the Predators 3-0 on Sunday to even the first-round series in the Western Conference.

Game 3 is Tuesday night in San Jose.

If history is an indicator, this was a must win for the Sharks who have never bounced back to win a series they trailed 0-2. They quickly neutralized this season's best home-ice advantage by scoring three power-play goals in the first period, including two on 5-on-3s, in a game that featured 20 penalties.

"Hey, they're calling penalties as advertised," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "Everyone's still shocked, `Why are they calling penalties in the playoffs?' They're supposed to because they want to work, and Gary Bettman was here so, hello!

"I mean it doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a sports writer to figure that one out."

Patrick Marleau also had a goal and assist, and Mark Smith got his second goal of the postseason. Vesa Toskala stopped 25 shots for his first playoff shutout in his second postseason game.

"That was the plan coming in, get home-ice advantage, go home and win the games at home," San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan said.

The Predators were counting on taking a 2-0 lead to California since they had won an NHL-best 32 games at home this season, including five in a row and 12 of 14.

But this is only their second postseason appearance and they came out sluggish and sloppy. Outshot 37-25, Nashville gave little help to goaltender Chris Mason.

"I felt we gave them the game with all the penalties," Mason said. "We knew they would be called. We had nothing. It's the playoffs now, and we need to get to the net and draw penalties."

With the Sharks clamping down on Paul Kariya, who had four assists in Nashville's 4-3 win Friday night, the Predators never mounted a serious offensive threat. They went 0-for-9 on the power play, compared to Game 1 when they went 4-for-7.

"We were more aggressive and did what we had to do," Wilson said. "We played with a lot more sense of urgency on our penalty kill than we did the other night for some reason."

This time, the Sharks watched as the Predators sent five to the penalty box in the first period. A couple of questionable calls gave San Jose a pair of two-man advantages that led to a 2-0 lead and quieted the crowd.

Cheechoo - who had an NHL-best 56 goals in the regular season - netted his first of the playoffs at 5:37 on the first 5-on-3. He had plenty of room to poke the puck past Mason, who was up in the crease.

When officials called Nashville center Jerred Smithson for kneeing Joe Thornton, San Jose had its second 5-on-3 advantage at 16:15. Cheechoo nearly scored again, but the puck slid across the crease before being cleared out to Marleau. He scored from the slot over a sprawled-out Mason.

Smith gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead at 17:31 of the first when he scored from the edge of the right circle off an assist from Cheechoo on the left side.

Nashville defenseman Brendan Witt said his team must be more disciplined.

"Refs are under a microscope, so we can't blame them," he said.

Toskala took over when the Predators finally got going with 10 shots in the third period. The goalie stopped Nashville on four power plays, including a 5-on-3 when he had a stick save on Kimmo Timonen and then stopped a shot from Mike Sillinger.

"Vesa played phenomenal," Smith said. "You saw it at the end there, a couple power-play game savers, game breakers. The kid's been doing it all season for us. We'll just let him sit in his corner and do what he's got to do to get ready for these games."

Notes: The Sharks have not lost when scoring the first two goals. They went 20-0 in the regular season. ... The Predators drew only 16,707, falling 406 of a sellout with the noon faceoff. ... Nashville was also shut out in Game 6 of its first playoff series in 2004 by Detroit, 2-0.

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