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Sharks lose Cheechoo and two-goal lead, but beat Nashville in double OT

NHL.com @NHL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators each carried 51 wins into the postseason. If their first playoff game is any indication, they could be in store for a long and riveting series.

Patrick Rissmiller scored at 8:14 of the second overtime and lifted the Sharks to a 5-4 victory over Nashville in the opening game of their Western Conference first-round matchup Wednesday night.

The Sharks could be without top goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo for the postseason after a knee-on-knee collision knocked him out of the game. They also blew a two-goal lead in the third period but had enough to escape with a victory.

"We'll feel good about having survived a blown lead and winning in overtime," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said.

"It's going to be a long series. It's unfortunate that two teams that both have 50 wins have to meet each other in a series like this in the first round. It's almost unfair that a great team is going to go down."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night in Nashville.

In other Western Conference openers Wednesday, Anaheim edged Minnesota 2-1, and Vancouver outlasted Dallas 5-4 in four overtimes. The remaining series begins Thursday when Calgary visits top-seeded Detroit.

In the lone Eastern matchup, Ottawa spoiled Sidney Crosby's NHL playoff debut with a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh.

On Thursday, Buffalo - the No. 1 overall seed - hosts the New York Islanders; the New York Rangers visit Atlanta; and Tampa Bay travels visits New Jersey.

Cheechoo was due to have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage to his right knee. He also lost a tooth, and Wilson wasn't happy at what he called an intent to injure by Predators forward Scott Hartnell. The Predators forward was tossed from the game nine minutes into the second.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz defended Hartnell's actions in the collision, saying he studied a replay and didn't see Hartnell stick a knee out.

"It's unfortunate when anybody gets hurt in the game. But looking at it, I thought it was a pretty clean hit. I mean they did collide knee on knee. But there was no sticking out of the knee," Trotz said.

Craig Rivet scored on a 5-on-3 and had an assist. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each had two assists, including Marleau's crisp pass to Rissmiller for the game-winning goal.

"I just saw Patty with it, and I knew that if I was going to the net he would either shoot it or pass to me," said Rissmiller, who had seven goals in the regular season. "It was a good pass, and when you have speed going at their D, it's tough to defend."

Matthew Carle, Mike Grier and Milan Michalek scored a goal each for San Jose, which has won five straight playoff games against Nashville after taking the final four in the first round last year.

The Predators, who stood atop the NHL until March 29 before slipping to the West's No. 4 seed, scored twice in the final 6:55 of regulation to force the first overtime in the franchise's short postseason history.

Alexander Radulov scored his second goal, then J.P. Dumont scored his second of the game with 50.4 seconds remaining in regulation, tipping a slap shot from Shea Weber past Evgeni Nabokov's glove.

Weber had two assists for a team that went 4-15-1 in the regular season when trailing after two.

Nabokov stopped 17 shots in overtime, including Jordin Tootoo on a breakaway to keep the Sharks in the game.

"We were the lucky ones to come out with the victory," Rivet said.

At Vancouver, British Columbia, Henrik Sedin ended the sixth-longest NHL playoff game 18:06 into the fourth overtime and Roberto Luongo made 72 saves to lift the host Canucks over Dallas.

Daniel Sedin came out from behind the net and spotted his identical twin brother cutting into the slot, where Henrik snapped a shot between the legs of Marty Turco in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Luongo set the record for saves in a first career playoff start, and the Canucks recovered after blowing a two-goal lead. Antii Miettinen and Ladislav Nagy scored in the third period to rally the Stars from a 4-2 deficit and force overtime.

It took more than five hours for Vancouver to grab a lead in the best-of-seven series scheduled to continue in Vancouver on Friday, less than 42 hours after the conclusion of Game 1.

Luongo finished one save short of Kelly Hrudey's playoff record of 73. Turco made 51 saves for Dallas.

Markus Naslund, Bryan Smolinski, Daniel Sedin and Mattias Ohlund also scored for the Canucks. Brendan Morrow had a goal and assist, and Trevor Daley added a goal for Dallas.

At Ottawa, Andrej Meszaros and Chris Kelly scored 5:01 apart early in the first period and the host Senators beat Crosby and the Penguins.

Tom Preissing made it 3-0 with a power-play goal 14:38 into second after Ottawa scored twice on Marc-Andre Fleury in the opening period when the Senators had a 16-4 shots advantage.

The 19-year-old Crosby, who led the NHL with 120 points, scored the game's final goal at 19:11 for his first playoff point. He also had a goal waved off 37 seconds into the third after Dany Heatley put Ottawa up 4-1 with a power-play goal 28 seconds earlier.

Chris Neil and Mike Comrie added third-period goals, and Ray Emery stopped 23 shots for Ottawa.

Jordan Staal and Sergei Gonchar scored for Pittsburgh, which played its first playoff game since 2001.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Ottawa.

At Anaheim, Calif., Dustin Penner scored with 5:20 remaining to lift the Ducks over visiting Minnesota.

Teemu Selanne tied it for Anaheim with a second-period goal, just 3:51 after Pavol Demitra scored for Minnesota.

Ilya Bryzgalov started in place of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and made 24 saves for Anaheim. Niklas Backstrom stopped 32 shots for the Wild.

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