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Sharks out to regain control in Game 7

San Jose can regroup at home after missing chance to finish off Nashville

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- In the moments of darkness following the game-ending goal by the Nashville Predators in overtime of Game 6 on Monday, the San Jose Sharks began the search for light.

As the Predators mobbed their unlikely hero, forward Viktor Arvidsson, behind one net, the Sharks began to file off the ice, stunned that the Swedish rookie's first playoff goal evened the Western Conference Second Round series at 3-3 and forced Game 7 at SAP Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

The Sharks, who had won Game 5 5-1 on Saturday, believed they were about to eliminate the Predators on Monday. And the Predators, it seemed, were almost finished, especially after San Jose struck for two first-period goals. But the Sharks allowed that 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead midway through the third period to slip away.

Nashville has been flying across the country for the past month, playing seven road playoff games in California, first against the Anaheim Ducks and then against the Sharks. They did not have more than one day between any of their first 13 playoff games.

San Jose, meanwhile, had a week of rest after eliminating the Los Angeles Kings in five games. The flight to Nashville for Game 6 was just the second trip outside of their home state since April 12. 

None of that seemed to matter Monday.

"They were stronger than us; that was the key," said San Jose forward Logan Couture, often the conscience of the Sharks. "We weren't good enough, so we are going to need to be a lot better in Game 7."

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Couture beats Rinne for the lead

Still, the Sharks had a chance to win and advance on one of the first shifts of overtime. Forward Joonas Donskoi had the puck on his stick, bearing down on goalie Pekka Rinne, but Rinne made the save and the Predators stayed alive. Arvidsson scored on the next rush up the ice.

Donskoi thought he was going to score, right up until the moment he didn't.

"Yes, I had a good chance but didn't get it in," Donskoi said. "That's how it is sometimes."

Championship teams move on from bad performances and turn their attention to the next challenge. The Sharks began that process minutes after Game 6. They hope they can finish it by the time Game 7 begins. 

"Like I said, based on how the series has been played, it should come down to one game in a Game 7," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "That's what hockey is about and we're excited it is in our building. We worked all year for home-ice advantage in this situation and we intend to take advantage of it."

They were not thinking about their past failures, although those will certainly come up between now and Thursday. They weren't thinking about the blown opportunities to take control of the series in Game 4 or to win it in Game 6.

They were thinking only of the future and those factors that suggest a better outcome Thursday.

The home team has won every game in this series and Game 7 is at the raucous SAP Center, they said. The Sharks didn't play their best game and were still one bounce away from awaiting the winner of another Game 7, between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues, in the Western Conference Final, they pointed out.

They will continue to emphasize the positives. The words, however, will mean little. What the teams do, on the ice, in Game 7, will be all that matters.

Despite the gut punch they took Monday, the Sharks insist they can't wait for Thursday.

"It's not easy," Donskoi said after Monday's game. "It shows there are two good teams on the ice all the time. So it is tough battles and a tough series. I think this series deserves a Game 7." 

And, now this series has it.

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