Just when it looked like the Nashville Predators' three-game losing streak might be snapped Wednesday night in San Jose's HP Pavilion, the Predators gave up a tying goal midway through the third period and a short-handed tally 1:44 into overtime to fall to the Sharks 3-2. The defeat overshadowed a fantastic performance by Nashville goaltender Chris Mason, who stopped 33 of 36 San Jose shots and made several key saves to keep the Predators in the contest.
Nashville earns one point in the standings with the overtime loss, which bumps the team's record to 8-2-2.
Paul Kariya led the way for the Predators on the scoreboard, collecting a goal and an assist. Frequent turnovers by both teams made for an entertaining, end-to-end match that included plenty of odd-man rushes and scoring chances.
For the third game in a row, Nashville took an early 1-0 lead. Predators forward Martin Erat converted on a three-on-two break led by Kariya, who carried the puck into the offensive zone and dropped it back to defenseman Kimmo Timonen before charging the net. As the defense collapsed to cover Kariya, Erat skated into the vacated high slot and one-timed a pass from Timonen past Sharks goaltender Nolan Schaefer just 1:35 into the game.
San Jose tied the contest minutes later on a goal by Marcel Goc. Nashville failed to clear the puck from its own zone and the disc ended up in the possession of Sharks forward Josh Langfeld. He fired a shot toward the net that was tipped by Goc in front and changed direction to elude Mason.
Thanks to a smart play by Kariya, the tie lasted only seven seconds. After Goc's goal, Nashville won the ensuing face-off and dumped the puck into the offensive zone. Kariya raced after it and was in the right spot when Schaefer failed to adequately clear the puck around the boards. With Kariya behind the net, Schaefer out of position and Sharks right wing Nicholas Dimitrakos backchecking to cover the goal mouth, Kariya banked the puck off the stick or skate of Dimitrakos and across the goal line at 6:21.
San Jose came out firing shots and finishing checks on the first shift of the second period, but Nashville quickly matched their intensity. After only being whistled for one penalty and spending no time short-handed in the first 20 minutes, the Predators' discipline waned and they took three penalties in each of the last two periods. Nashville's penalty killers and Mason nullified San Jose's first five chances with the man advantage, but the Predators' final infraction of the game--a high-sticking call to Danny Markov at 11:30 of the third--turned out to be costly.
Again unable to clear the puck from within their zone, Nashville turned it over and allowed forward Jonathan Cheechoo to find Sharks captain Patrick Marleau alone in the slot for a one-timer that beat Mason high to the right corner. That tied the game at 2-2 and ultimately forced Nashville into its fifth overtime in 12 games.
Things looked hopeful for Nashville when Rob Davison was called for hitting Erat with a high stick 1:12 into the extra session. Before the Predators could take advantage of their four-on-three power play though, San Jose took off on a two-on-one in the other direction to steal the victory. An offensive zone face-off resulted in the puck being lost under Predators centerman David Legwand. As Legwand searched and all but one of Nashville's players pressed deeper into the Sharks' end, San Jose's Alyn McCauley pried the puck loose and started up the ice with his teammate Brad Stuart to his right. Timonen was the lone defender back for Nashville, and once McCauley sent the puck over to Stuart and the rush crossed the Predators' blue line, Timonen slid in an attempt to block a shot or any return pass to McCauley. Stuart made a nice move to stickhandle around the sprawled defenseman, and he did connect with McCauley for a one-time shot that secured San Jose's fourth straight win.
Nashville's power play continued to struggle in San Jose, going 0 for 3. One of those opportunities with the man advantage resulted from a dust-up between Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk and Sharks forward Mark Smith. Smith engaged Hordichuk after the latter collided with Marleau in open ice. Hordichuk sent Smith to the ice in short order with a couple of right hands blows, and Smith was given a two-minute instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct in addition to the five-minute fighting majors he and Hordichuk earned.
The Predators' next game comes on Saturday, when they will close out their three-stop California road trip with a 3 p.m. CST contest against the Los Angeles Kings. That game will be televised on FSN South and broadcast on WNSR-SportsRadio 560 AM. The team then returns home for a Tuesday, Nov. 8 game against the Edmonton Oilers--the first of a four-game homestand.