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Kariya powers Preds to 1-0 series lead

by Doug Brumley / Nashville Predators

Adam Hall scores on Toskala
Photo by John Russell
Adam Hall deflected Paul Kariya's shot past Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala to score the game winner at 12:06 of the third period.
The Nashville Predators made the most of their power play opportunities Friday night thanks in large part to Paul Kariya, who assisted on each of Nashville's four power play goals to lead the Predators to a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks at a sold-out Gaylord Entertainment Center. The victory gives the Predators a 1-0 lead in the best of seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Game 2 will take place at noon CT Sunday at the GEC. Less than 1,000 seats remain for that game; to order, call (615) 770-PUCK, purchase online or visit the GEC box office or any Ticketmaster outlet.

Nashville fell behind 1-0 4:12 into the game, but came storming back with goals by Mike Sillinger, Shea Weber and Martin Erat before the conclusion of the first period. San Jose cut the lead to 3-2 in the second period, then tied it midway through the third. A too many men on the ice penalty against the Sharks one minute later set the stage for Adam Hall's deflection goal at 12:06 that put Nashville ahead 4-3.

"There's no question the power play has been an impactful part of our game all year, and tonight it showed it's worth," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said.

Goaltender Chris Mason stopped 31 of 34 shots, making several key saves at critical moments of the game. None were more important than those he made during a final San Jose barrage in the last minute of play.

"It was just crazy," Mason said. "You know once they get it in [the zone], their guys are so big they get it down low and they keep moving it around. They get it back and put it on net. Someone came across and knocked my stick out, so [Dan] Hamhuis had to give me his. We were just scrambling. When the buzzer went it was just relief."

The Predators put together a strong first period in which they killed two penalties, scored on all three power play opportunities they were given, and outshot the Sharks 14-8. Nashville drew a number of penalties against the regular season's third least penalized club with a combination of speed and hard work.

"When our team skates and stays out of the box on our end, we're effective," Kariya said. "When we take bad penalties we get into trouble. It's important for us to play five-on-five and use our speed."

"I think [penalties are] also one of those things that can change one game to the next," Hall said. "We had guys that were just working extremely hard, and I think if we keep skating and we keep using our speed, they're going to have to take the odd penalty."

Friday night, Hall was Exhibit A for the case that hard work pays off. As one of Nashville's primary penalty killers, he made a number of second effort plays that resulted in important clears or odd-man breaks the other way. At even strength, his tenacious battling along the boards in the Preds' zone drew the hooking penalty that led to Nashville's third goal of the night. Then he was rewarded with the power-play time that allowed him to deposit the game winner in the third.

"Adam, I thought he played a real solid game," Trotz said. "He was outstanding on the penalty kill. [In the third period, Mike] Sillinger's line was out there for a while then we got the power play and we wanted some traffic. Adam deserved to be out there and it was great that he got the goal."

Nashville was also very tidy in its own zone--in the first period especially--quickly clearing San Jose dump-ins before the big Sharks players could establish their forechecking and cycling game deep in the Predators' end.

"A couple of times we got stuck in our own end and got a little scrambly," Weber said, "but we tried to keep the puck out and keep it going the other way as much as we could."

An attempted outlet pass by Hamhuis in the game's early minutes was held in by San Jose, then Mike Sillinger turned the wrong direction allowing Mark Smith to get off an open shot. Mason got in front of the puck, but it squirted between his catching glove and leg pad into the right side of the net to put the Sharks up 1-0.

Scott Hannan and Steve Sullivan
Photo by Frederick Breedon
Steve Sullivan (right), playing in his first game since March 30, tugs at Scott Hannan.
The Predators, who entered the playoffs with a 23-11 record when their opponent scores first, then struck twice with the man advantage in a 1:59 span to wrest the lead and momentum from San Jose. Sillinger deflected Kimmo Timonen's point shot past Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala at 8:57--a play that stood after video review--then Erat took a Kariya pass and scored with a high shot from the top of the right circle to give Nashville a 2-1 lead at 10:56.

"I think our power play did a great job," Weber said. "It's going to be a big part of the series I think. Even strength it's pretty even, so we need to capitalize on all the power-play strength opportunities."

Weber himself pocketed a power-play goal after the aforementioned hooking penalty drawn by Hall put San Jose one man down with 16 seconds remaining before the first intermission. The Predators only needed 12 seconds to score, though, as Weber's one-timer beat Toskala with 3.8 seconds remaining on the clock. Once again it was Kariya who set the table, this time with a pass from the right corner to Weber, who had pinched to the left hashmarks.

"I think it's been pretty apparent that he's a great playmaker, he can score, he can pretty much do everything," Weber said of Kariya. "So it's no surprise that he had a night like he did tonight."

"The guy's a pressure player," Hall said of Kariya. "He's one of the elite players in the league. He goes out there and he's a great skill player, but what people don't see is his intense work ethic. He deserves everything he's getting."

San Jose's power-play pulled the visitors within one at 8:20 of the second, when Joe Thornton set up Nils Ekman in the right circle for a precision shot high to the far corner. The Sharks nearly tied it in the final minutes of the middle frame, nicely executing a tic-tac-toe passing play between Patrick Marleau, Ekman and Matthew Carle on a three-on-one rush. Mason stepped up big to deny Carle the tying goal.

"In the second period he made two or three outstanding saves," Trotz said of his netminder. "We got caught pinching on sort of a neutral zone play and we gave up sort of a breakaway and a couple of odd man rushes. He was equal to the task. It doesn't surprise me, because we know Chris Mason."

Afterward, Mason said he never quite felt settled in the game. "You start thinking about everything," he said. "You try to get it out of your head, but you've got the nerves creeping up. That was probably mentally one of the hardest games I've ever had to play in. Just the heat in there, all those things, they come into play. It was probably one of the toughest games I've ever played."

Early in the third, the Predators' energy line of Scott Nichol, Jordin Tootoo and Jerred Smithson--who were particularly effective during a shift late in the first period--got pinned in their own zone for an extended period. Nashville iced the puck for relief, forcing its fivesome to remain on the ice while San Jose put its top scoring line of Ekman, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo out for a more favorable matchup. That resulted in Weber committing a holding penalty that put the Sharks on the power play.

Thirty seconds into the advantage, a crisp passing play put Milan Michalek in one-on-one against Mason. When Michalek deked left to his backhand, Mason's right leg pad was there to make the stop. Before the penalty expired, Ekman and Ville Nieminen turned the puck over allowing Legwand to unleash a shot that beat Toskala but clanked off the intersection of the right post and crossbar. Half a minute later, with the Predators back a full strength, Kariya and Legwand turned a break up ice into a great scoring chance that Toskala partially blocked. As the puck trickled behind him, the Finnish netminder fell backwards and planted the paddle of his stick to stop the puck on the goal line. The close calls sent the crowd of 17,113 into a frenzy that only increased when Mason responded at the other end with a key stop on a shot from the right point.

Midway through the final period, Nichol lost a defensive zone face-off to Alyn McCauley and it cost the Predators. Nieminen centered the puck from the right corner to Scott Thornton, who had his stick on the ice for a tap-in at Mason's doorstep. At 10:31 of the third, San Jose had drawn even at 3-3.

Chris Mason
Photo by John Russell
Chris Mason stopped 31 of 34 shots for the first playoff win of his NHL career.
The too many men penalty came 1:01 later, giving the Preds an immediate opportunity to regain the lead. "Once we got that power play [the players] said it's going to happen right here," Trotz said. "And they did. They made it happen."

On the right side of the umbrella in the upper half of the offensive zone, Timonen and Kariya sent the puck back and forth a few times before Kariya skated into the high slot and fired the shot that Hall deflected past Toskala at 12:06.

"Erat and Kariya did a great job on the walls gaining the zone and getting entry, then once we got set up we just worked for the shot," Hall said. "We just wanted to get traffic in front of the goalie--not let him see the shots. We were able to get a good shot from the middle of the ice."

With a 4-3 lead, the Predators dug in to protect the one-goal margin down the stretch. The home side got a big shot-block by Smithson, an important clear by Markov and at least three game-saving stops by Mason in the final six minutes.

"That's probably what almost every game is going to be like," Mason said. "It was back and forth the whole game. They scored. We went up and scored. They came back in the second period. It's going to be like that the whole series."

Sullivan returns: Forward Steve Sullivan reentered the Nashville Predators lineup for Game 1 after missing nine games with a groin injury. "Stevie's been a big part of our hockey club," head coach Barry Trotz said. "I didn't see any reason--he said he could go. There's a little bit of a feeling out process with him again because he's missed some time. I didn't play him as much as I usually do. He's just got to work his way back in and he's a dangerous player for us. He'll have a big impact as the series goes on."

Notes: The Predators' four goals set a franchise record for the most goals in a playoff game... Paul Kariya, who posted four assists in Game 1, and Adam Hall, who scored the game-winning goal, are now tied for the franchise lead in playoff scoring by a Predator with four points each. Hall scored two goals and an assist in the six-game series vs. Detroit in 2004... Kariya set franchise records for the most assists and most points in a playoff game. Including the final three games of the regular season, Kariya has 11 points (3g, 8a) in his last four games... Hall, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 of Nashville's 2004 series against Detroit, netted his second career playoff game-winner in Game 1 Friday... Chris Mason saved 31 of San Jose's 34 shots to record a win in the first playoff appearance of his career... Kimmo Timonen collected two assists--the first playoff points of his NHL career... Shea Weber's netted a goal in his first playoff game... Mike Sillinger, who closed out the regular season with four goals in the final four games, posted one goal and one assist Friday vs. San Jose... Martin Erat scored the first playoff goal of his career... Nashville set a record for shots on goal in a period of a playoff game with 14 in the first period of Game 1. The previous record was 12 in the second period of Game 2 vs. Detroit in 2004. The Predators' 30 shots Friday were also a single-game team high for the playoffs, besting the 28 they fired in Game 2 vs. Detroit... The Predators, who defeated San Jose 4-3 Friday, were 25-14 during the regular season in one-goal games, 23-11 when allowing the first goal, and 30-1 when leading after two periods... Nashville, up 3-1 by the end of the first period Friday, had outscored opponents by a combined 85-64 in the opening 20 minutes during the regular season... Scratches for Nashville were Tomas Vokoun, Marek Zidlicky, Scottie Upshall, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Suter, Vern Fiddler and Yanic Perreault.


Video: Watch the game highlights (1:24)

Audio: Listen to head coach Barry Trotz's post-game press conference (4:36)

Game Stats:
Official Scoresheet
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