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Game Four: Sharks vs. Preds

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

  Game Four: San Jose Sharks vs. Nashville Predators (SJS Leads Series 2-1)
  8 P.M. (CT) | Bridgestone Arena | Tickets
TV: CNBC | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Presented by Nissan

The Nashville Predators have a chance to even their series with the San Jose Sharks tonight in Game Four at Bridgestone Arena. After a 4-1 victory in Game Three, the Preds cut San Jose's series lead to 2-1 and forced a Game Five, which will come Saturday at SAP Center.

After allowing the first goal in Game Three, Nashville scored four unanswered tallies, courtesy of James Neal, Shea Weber, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg. Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 26 of 27 shots in the win.

Wilson tallied his third goal of the playoffs on Tuesday and leads the team in postseason scoring with eight points (3g-5a). His nine-career playoff goals (all as a member of the Predators) are tied with current-Shark Joel Ward for third-most in franchise postseason history. Wilson is currently on a four-game point streak (2g-2a), which is one game shy of tying the postseason franchise record (previously set by Ward).

Mike Fisher posted a team-leading six shots in Game Three and added an assist. He is currently on a three-game point streak (1g-2a). Forsberg notched his second goal of the playoffs and first since Game One of the First Round. Five of his six career postseason goals have come at Bridgestone Arena. Ryan Johansen, Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi are all on three-game point streaks for the Preds.

The game was Nashville’s first win of the postseason when trailing at the first intermission and San Jose’s first loss of the postseason when leading after 20 minutes of play. The Sharks also lost on the road for the initial time this postseason, their first loss away from SAP Center since March 17. Nashville is now undefeated all-time in Game Threes in which they trail a series 0-2 (4-0).

Weber notched a goal and an assist in Game Three to tie David Legwand for the playoff franchise record for most goals (13), assists (15) and points (28). Another point by Weber will make him the all-time franchise leader in postseason points. Legwand posted 13 goals, 15 assists totaling 28 points in 47 postseason games as a member of the Predators.

Nashville has been able to come back to split the series when losing the first two games on two previous occasions. During the 2004 and 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals against Detroit, Nashville dropped the first two games, won the next two, but eventually fell to the Red Wings in six games.
The Predators have not lost a game in regulation at Bridgestone Arena against the Sharks since Feb. 25, 2012, posting a 7-0-1 record in that span (regular season and playoffs). They have a combined 3-10 record in playoff games against San Jose, including a 3-4 record in Nashville.
Through the first three games of the series, Josi leads the team in points with four (4a), while Johansen leads with two goals.

Notes: Game Four is presented by Nissan. Fans in attendance will receive a Gold t-shirt in addition to rally towels; fans are encouraged to bring back their LED bracelets from Game Three to tonight's contest. A plaza party presented by Lee Company starts at 5 p.m. (CT) and doors to the arena open at 6 p.m.

Special Teams Key Again:

The Nashville Predators might be down 2-1 in their series against the San Jose Sharks, but after winning Game Three by a 4-1 final, there’s no lack of confidence in the Nashville locker room. And while the Predators know nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs, they’re also aware of the opportunity that exists to even the series tonight at Bridgestone Arena in Game Four.

“You look at your mindset going into each game, your desperation level probably plays a bigger factor,” center Mike Fisher said after Thursday’s morning skate. “That being said, sometimes when you have a good game, there’s a tendency to sit back and admire it, and you can’t do that by any means. The other team is going to be coming.”

Two items that factored into the success found in Game Three include the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne and the Preds execution on both sides of their special teams’ opportunities.

After giving up the first goal in Game Three, Rinne shut the door the rest of the way, stopping 26 shots in all. The Preds netminder has been solid throughout the series, providing his club with an extra sense of confidence night after night.

“I think he’s played really well in the playoffs,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne. “There was a time in Game Three and Game Four [against Anaheim] where I said back then we clearly could have done things better in front of him. He’s given us chance to win hockey games. He’s made a lot of good saves, but he’s made some key saves at the right time that’s either held the game in check or held the game [from being] tied.”

Nashville also tallied twice on the power-play in Game Three, but perhaps more importantly, shut down the Sharks man advantage units on all four of their opportunities. If the Preds are to even the series tonight, their penalty kill will likely need to be impenetrable once more.

“We’ve drawn a couple of really good power-play units to have to defend against with our penalty kill,” Laviolette said. “We’re learning what’s working for us, and I think there’s always small adjustments that you make, and they’re doing the same thing. They’re trying to find a hole and find that space, and we’re trying to take away that hole and take that space. The penalty kill was a big reason we’re able to win a hockey game and the power play too. Specialty teams has factored into this, there’s no question.”

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