Photo by Don Smith/Rocky Widner
San Jose was the better team at getting the puck deep and outworking the opponent's defense in Game 3. Here Steve Bernier keeps the puck away from Predators captain Kimmo Timonen.
Two common themes arose from the Predators locker room following Game 3's 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Monday night at HP Pavilion at San Jose: Nashville spent too much time in the penalty box and when the visitors were skating five-on-five, they weren't getting the puck deep enough to wear down the Sharks defense and manufacture scoring chances. The lessons of Game 2, a decisive 5-2 Nashville win, weren't applied. That's going to change before Game 4, the players say.
"We beat them [in Game 2] because we chipped pucks behind them and worked their [defense]," Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun said following Game 3. "[Monday] we were trying to make plays in the middle of the ice, trying to finesse through. We just didn't play the way we needed to play to win. The formula is simple. Exactly what they are doing to us we should be doing to them. That's how we win in the playoffs. You've got to put pucks deep and go and grind. If you want to play drop passes and three passes through the neutral zone, it's a tough sell in the playoffs, especially against a good defensive and big team like San Jose."
Rather than the sustained offensive zone pressure that Nashville created in games 1 and 2, the vast majority of the Predators' forays up the ice in Game 3 were either short-circuited by the Sharks at center ice or quickly sent back in the other direction after one scoring chance.
"That's what happens when we don't get it deep, they can stand up at the blueline," said center Peter Forsberg. "We've got to make sure we get it deep and get their 'D' to back off. We've got a little bit to work on before Game 4 here."
Penalties compounded the issue, preventing Nashville's lines from developing any sort of rhythm.
"I thought we had a pretty good first period. We started taking penalties in the second and that sort of killed our momentum," forward Vern Fiddler said. "We were on the [penalty kill] the whole second period. It's hard to get the puck behind their 'D' when they have possession of the puck on the power play. Obviously we've got to stay out of the box and play them five-on-five and get the puck behind their 'D.' That's when they take penalties on us."