The San Jose Sharks had to kill one penalty in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of their Western Conference Second Round series on Monday at Bridgestone Arena, but for much of the game, it looked as if they were playing shorthanded.
The Sharks had 18 shots, their lowest total in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games this year, and tied for their second-lowest total the entire season. They built a quick 2-0 lead but had 10 shots through the final two periods and overtime. The Predators had 14 more shots on goal and took 76 total shots to 45 for San Jose.
The Sharks spent most of the game in survival mode, facing wave after wave of Predators. For a team that relies on puck possession and high-volume shooting, San Jose needs a quick fix before Game 7 against Nashville on Thursday at SAP Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).
"We didn't get enough pucks in deep," Sharks center Chris Tierney said after the loss. "We didn't win enough battles along the wall, stick battles. They get turnovers and are coming hard at us. When we do that, we're in trouble. That's not our game. We can't be doing that. We've got to change that."
Video: DeBoer post game presser
San Jose center Logan Couture said the Predators were stronger than the Sharks in Game 6.
"That was the key," Couture said. "They were winning more puck battles down low and at the blue lines. They pinched. We weren't strong enough on the boards to get it out, and they won the game."
Tierney gave San Jose early momentum, scoring at 9:55 of the first period when he redirected Marc-Edouard Vlasic's point shot. Tierney scored again at 11:51, knocking in a loose puck from close range after Nashville blocked a shot by Matt Nieto.
San Jose's impetus seemed to vanish when Predators defenseman Roman Josi scored an unassisted goal at 15:27 of the first period.
"It gave them a lot of momentum," Vlasic said. "At 2-0, if we get that next one, it kind of puts everybody to sleep. But they battled hard. It was a hard-fought game by both teams. We'll be ready for Thursday."
The question is whether Nieto will be healthy enough to play in Game 7. The San Jose left wing crashed into a post during a rush late in the first period Monday and didn't return. The Sharks played the rest of the game with 11 forwards and had to shuffle their lines.
Video: Logan Couture post game presser
"He's a great player," Tierney said of Nieto. "He brings a lot of speed. He can make plays. He PKs. He does a lot of things. It shuffles up the lines a bit, but we've got guys that are capable of picking us up, but it [hurts] to lose a key guy like that."
If Nieto can't play, then forward Tommy Wingels likely will take his place. Wingels was in the lineup on the fourth line for San Jose's first nine playoff games, but was a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 against Nashville when Dainius Zubrus replaced him.
With or without Nieto, the Sharks know they'll need to play better to win Game 7.
"Good start," Vlasic said of Game 6. "After that, they were a little more desperate throughout. We didn't play our best game and we almost won. We'll have a better effort on Thursday."