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playoffs

Weber blast lifts Predators to Game 3 victory

Captain scores winning goal, helps cut Sharks' series lead to 2-1

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

Weber's huge slap shot

SJS@NSH, Gm3: Weber beats Jones with a huge one-timer

R2, Gm3: Shea Weber winds up and blasts a big slap shot past the glove of Martin Jones, putting the Predators ahead in the 2nd period

  • 00:52 •

NASHVILLE -- The smile was as big as the sound of 17,163 fans trying to push the roof off Bridgestone Arena was loud.

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber stood in the faceoff circle to the right of the San Jose Sharks net, his arms outstretched to greet Colin Wilson and Roman Josi. He stood for a split second before they arrived, the smile growing as he shouted unintelligibly to his teammates, his words, but not his elation, lost in the din.

Weber had just scored a Shea Weber goal; a thunderclap of a slap shot, launched from between the circles. It gave Nashville its first lead since 2:37 of the third period in Game 1 and it stood up as the winner in a 4-1 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round series Tuesday.

The Predators trail the best-of-7 series 2-1 and have a chance to even it in Game 4 here on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports2).

Who knows if that would be the case if Weber doesn't score when presented with his best look of the series at 14:44 of the second period and the game tied 1-1. The Predators had certainly played well for the first 34 minutes, but they were unable to separate themselves from a San Jose team that has been suffocating Nashville at even strength in this series.

But with some extra ice courtesy of each team serving a minor penalty, Weber did what Weber is supposed to do.  

He collected the puck in the high slot and he hammered it as hard as he could. It was the 13th postseason goal of his NHL career, tying the Predators record established by forward David Legwand.

On the shot, the puck fluttered coming off his stick, its aim somehow remaining true, rising ever so gradually and traveling ever so quickly so that the fast-acting glove hand of San Jose goalie Martin Jones was a split-second too slow.

Weber had his first goal of the series after failing on his first 11 shot attempts.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, stationed at the other end of the rink, could certainly appreciate the goal. He's seen a variety of it countless times during practice since the 2005-06 season

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm3: Rinne denies Ward in front with the pad

"It was a nice goal, [cross]bar and in," Rinne said. "That was a timely goal, and it was nice to see it go in."

That's because it was the goal that turned around the game Tuesday; and perhaps when the story is fully told sometime next week, it will have turned around the series.

Nashville played well in each of the first two games, but a five-goal meltdown in the first game and a two-goal letdown in the final 2:40 of Game 2 had left the Predators wondering about the road back and facing a Game 3 of far more gravity than they would have liked.

They had played well, but not well enough to be in the series.

"The biggest thing that can come might be frustration or a mental block," Weber said of the Predators' outlook as their search for even-strength scoring intensified. "I think we made a good point to talk about it this morning and that it's going to come. We just needed to keep doing the right things, getting men to the front of the net, and it's going to find a way in.

"We talked about Game 2 a lot. We liked a lot of the things we did, but obviously they got the better result. In the end, if we are going to play that way, that style, I think we will be successful more times than not."

It's one thing to say it. It's another to prove it. Leaders prove it and that is why Weber wears the "C" for the Predators.

"I've learned a lot [from him]," Nashville left wing Filip Forsberg said. "Just the way he is preparing for the games, he has been unbelievable. He's still stepping it up in the playoffs. That's amazing. I mean, he played so well the first three games [of this series]. He's been the key part of the team, and that is what we need from him."

Things did not start well for Weber. He and Josi were burnt by San Jose center Patrick Marleau in the first period; split by Marleau on the rush before he deked Rinne and put the puck in the vacated net.

But Weber never flinched. He kept coming, willing his team back into the game.

He had help.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm3: Forsberg's perfect shot beats Jones

Nashville's best players were its best players Tuesday. Left wing James Neal scored the tying goal. Wilson, the Stanley Cup Playoff revelation last spring, got the third goal. Forsberg, the 30-goal scorer in the regular season, scored the final goal. Veteran Mike Fisher had six shots on goal and an assist.

But Weber's fingerprints were all over this victory. He played 24:02, 33 seconds off defenseman Mattias Ekholm's Predators-high 24:35. He created three turnovers and blocked a shot. He led emotionally and physically.

"It's fun for [Weber]," Forsberg said. "That was a huge goal. That's what he has been doing all year, blocking shots in the back end, and then coming up to score goals. We're really happy to have him."

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