James Neal tallied the game-winner and the Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks by a 3-1 final on Saturday afternoon at SAP Center. The result snaps Nashville's four-game skid and gives them 33 wins and 77 points overall on the season.
With the victory, the Preds collected four out of a possible six points on the California swing - and points in nine of their last 11 - a positive end to a road trip that didn't leave the best taste until the final outing.
"We're in the point-collecting business right now," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "In hindsight, the two points we got in the first two games, then add these two in, it makes it four out of six, which is good coming out to the west coast."
"It was a big win for us," Preds goaltender Juuse Saros said. "It's always tough to come to the West Coast and always a hard opponent [in San Jose], but we played a really smart game today."
San Jose got the first goal of the afternoon when Paul Martin's shot found its way through a crowd and past Juuse Saros, but Nashville's top line evened the contest before the period was out when Ryan Johansen collected a loose puck in the slot and beat Martin Jones for his 11th of the season.
Video: NSH@SJS: Johansen gathers blocked shot to beat Jones
In the middle frame, a 10-game stretch without a goal was snapped for James Neal when he finished off Colin Wilson's feed into the low slot. On the play, Wilson lifted the stick of Dylan DeMelo, retrieved the puck in the corner and spun it out in front to an open Neal.
From there, Saros - who finished the day with 25 saves - and his mates held the Sharks off, and Viktor Arvidsson potted a shorthanded, empty-net tally to seal the victory.
Video: NSH@SJS: Arvidsson buries empty-netter for SHG
After allowing three power-play goals on Thursday in Los Angeles, Nashville went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and blocked 18 shots on the afternoon, including a team-leading four from Austin Watson in a gutsy road win.
"It changes the whole road trip for sure," Neal said. "These are good teams out here and all hard fought games. You battle in that first game in Anaheim and come close to getting two points in overtime, and you go into L.A. and do the same, so to pick up a win to have a nice, happy flight home, it was a good road trip for us"
Neal on the Board:
Video: NSH@SJS: Neal beats Jones on sharp one-timer
A 10-game period without a goal and one in his last 19, James Neal was hounding every opponent's net looking to break out.
After another shot off the post on Thursday and two in-tight chances against the Sharks, Neal was helped by a strong play from Colin Wilson on the forecheck. No. 33 earned his eighth point in the last 12 games when he stripped a Sharks' defenseman of the puck behind the goal line and centered to a wide-open Neal in the slot.
Neal made no mistake on the chance, one-timing the puck past the blocker of Jones.
"It's been a while, but you're going to go into slumps throughout your career, and you have to keep battling through them," Neal said. "You have to look at your game when you're not getting chances and get into the shot column. I had some good looks on the trip… just get that confidence and offensively, you're going to get one,"
Forward P.A. Parenteau spoke on Friday of his frustration at being unable to show his new team his on-ice capabilities, but on Saturday he was able to suit up for the first time.
On his sixth team (Avalanche, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Islanders, Devils and Preds) in four years, the veteran was acquired by Nashville on March 1, but was forced to tend to an upper-body injury before finally skating in his new sweater.
"I felt better as the game went on," Parenteau said. "A little nervous in the first period, but as a team and for myself, I think we stuck with it. We didn't make any mistakes, we played the right way and we came out up top."
If all goes according to plan, Parenteau's second game with the Preds will come on Monday at Bridgestone Arena, one the winger is already thinking about as the club heads home.
"I'm really excited," Parenteau said. "I saw the game against Chicago, saw the vibe in the building, and it's an amazing place to play hockey. I'm looking forward to my first [home] game."
Video: Saros, Predators top Sharks, 3-1
P.A. Parenteau made his Preds debut on Saturday. The veteran winger was acquired at the March 1 deadline but had been sidelined with an upper-body injury. He logged 11:35 of ice time with one shot and two hits.
Ryan Ellis returned to the Predators lineup after missing Thursday's contest in L.A. with a lower-body injury. Ellis fired two shots and blocked two more in 21:46.
Nashville scratched forwards Kevin Fiala, Vernon Fiddler and Harry Zolnierczyk as well as defensemen Matt Irwin and Brad Hunt on the afternoon.
The Preds return home for a lone game on Monday night (at 7 p.m. CT) against Winnipeg at Bridgestone Arena before jetting off to the Nation's Capital later in the week.