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Niemi Stops 35, Preds Shut Out by Sharks

by Nashville Predators / Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators appeared to build on the quality aspects they displayed in a win over the Arizona Coyotes, but the Preds were shut out by the San Jose Sharks 2-0 on Thursday evening.

Nashville ended a season-high, six-game losing streak with a 2-1 overtime victory on Monday, but they were back on the wrong side of the ledger against the Sharks, despite outshooting San Jose 35 to 21. Goaltender Antti Niemi was spotless for the second time when facing Nashville this season; the Finn led the Sharks to a pair of 2-0 victories in both of the teams’ meetings at the SAP Center during the 2014-15 campaign.

“I thought our guys played hard,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We like a lot of things except the score. We don't like the score.”

Prior to the shutout loss, several Preds players said they felt they’d turned a corner following a narrow victory earlier in the week, but an even more complete effort three days later was not enough.

“It’s not just going to magically fix itself,” Nashville Captain Shea Weber said. “We’re not going to go on a 10-game winning streak. It’s a process, and I think that was good to [win in Arizona], but we still have to find ways to win games. We were close enough, we just have to score goals to win.”

The first period went scoreless, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Nashville outshot San Jose 14-6 in the opening frame, including a number of chances in the latter portions of the stanza. Colin Wilson (4) and Craig Smith (3) accounted for half of the Predators shots and one more than the entire Sharks team through 20 minutes.

San Jose got on the board in the second period on their fourth power-play opportunity of the night, as Tomas Hertl slid a rebound past a sprawling Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 lead. The Sharks continued to press after the tally, putting the Preds on their heels for the first time.

“We knew their power play was good, and we can't take that many penalties,” Weber said. “When you do, they’re going to make you pay, so that ended up being the difference in a 1-0 game. We talked about it earlier, our power play has to score and our penalty kill has to be good as well.”

Tommy Wingels later sealed the Sharks win at 19:01 of the third period with an empty-net tally.

Thursday’s loss dropped the Preds’ record to 3-8-1 in their last 12 games. A St. Louis Blues shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers vaulted the Blues past the Predators in the Central Division standings.

“It’s unfortunate to lose a game like that...but if we keep playing like that, [wins will come],” forward Colin Wilson said. “I think we got back to the way we normally play, and we’re not going to be losing games very often if we keep playing like that.”

“The guys played hard,” Laviolette said. “The chances were in our favor, the shots were in our favor, possession in our favor, we just didn't get it done. Ultimately, we need to win hockey’s frustrating.”

Nashville starts a back-to-back set in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Saturday and Sunday to complete their current excursion away from Music City.

End Game:

The Predators were shut out for the fourth time this season on Thursday, half of which have come at the hands of the Sharks. Nashville’s record against the Pacific Division fell to 11-4-2 following the loss.

Nashville out shot San Jose in every period on Thursday. The Preds were led by Craig Smith’s seven shots on goal, followed by Colin Wilson and Roman Josi, each with five shots on the Sharks’ cage.

Hertl’s second period score marked the 12th time in the last 13 contests that Nashville has allowed the game’s first goal.

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