Photo by Frederick Breedon
Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk stands dejected at the conclusion of Game 5 as the San Jose Sharks celebrate at the other end of the ice.
The San Jose Sharks got a goal from captain Patrick Marleau with 4:21 remaining in regulation to break a 2-2 tie and ultimately eliminate the Nashville Predators from the NHL playoffs in five games Friday night at Nashville Arena.
With the 3-2 victory, San Jose won the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarterfinal series 4 games to 1.
Jason Arnott and Vern Fiddler scored 39 seconds apart in Period 2 to turn a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 lead. After killing off a penalty to start the second, Nashville was awarded a power play that it capitalized on at the 3:47 mark. San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made a right leg pad stop on a shot by defenseman Shea Weber from the top of the left circle, but Arnott was in position to sweep the rebound between Nabokov and the left post to tie the score 1-1.
The Predators got a visible lift from the goal and on the next shift Peter Forsberg sent a pass from behind the net to Fiddler in the slot. Fiddler kicked the puck from his right skate to his stick and sent a shot through the legs of Nabokov at 4:26. The goal, Fiddler's first career playoff tally, made it 2-1.
At 14:58, Scott Nichol and Christian Ehrhoff came together, resulting in an interference minor for Ehrhoff and a major penalty for spearing and a game misconduct for Nichol. Ehrhoff's penalty led to two minutes of four-on-four hockey, then San Jose received a three-minute five-on-four power play. Patrick Marleau converted a pass from Bill Guerin at 17:46 to knot the game at 2-2.
In the first, Ryane Clowe tallied for the Sharks, who kept the puck in with a strong forechecking effort by Steve Bernier. Bernier cut off defenseman Ryan Suter's clearing attempt along the right wall of Nashville's zone, drove to the net and drew a delayed penalty while getting a shot on net. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped Bernier's chance but Clowe creeped in to poke home the rebound 8:21 into the period.
Two of Nashville's better opportunities in the first came from winger Darcy Hordichuk, who was initially scratched from the lineup but was inserted minutes before the opening face-off when it was determined that forward Pat Leahy was not eligible to play in the game. Hordichuk had a shot toward an open net deflected wide 3:15 into the game, and missed with a bid from a prime scoring location later in the period. Less than four minutes before the first intermission, defenseman Greg Zanon fired a straightaway point shot that ticked off the outside of the left side of the net for another close call.
Vokoun made three sensational, consecutive saves before the end of the first, denying Sharks winger Jonathan Cheechoo twice and knocking down a rebound by center Joe Thornton.
NOTES: Vern Fiddler and Jason Arnott set a new franchise playoff record when they scored 39 seconds apart in the second period of Game 5. The previous record was 1:22, set by David Legwand and Adam Hall on April 11, 2004 vs. Detroit... Vern Fiddler scored his first career NHL playoff goal Friday... Defensemen Shea Weber and Kimmo Timonen each collected an assist on Jason Arnott's second-period power-play goal... Center Peter Forsberg and defenseman Greg Zanon assisted on Vern Fiddler's goal. For Zanon, it was his second NHL playoff point... San Jose scored the first goal of the game for the fourth time in the series... Nashville outshot the Sharks 7-6 in the third period after being outshot 31-17 through the first two... The Predators power play connected on one of four opportunities while the penalty killers stopped San Jose on six of seven manpower advantages. For the series, Nashville's penalty killers allowed just two goals on 30 power-play attempts against. One of those goals came during a two-man disadvantage... Attendance at Nashville Arena was 17,113, a third-straight playoff game sellout.
PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ
On San Jose
"Take nothing away from San Jose. They played a real strong team game. They're big, they're fast. They've got all the elements, you know they got all the elements to win the Stanley Cup, there is no question. Their depth, their four lines, that's what makes them real strong."
"We didn't do ourselves any favors with unnecessary penalties. Today, I thought we put in a real gutsy effort but we took a penalty at the end of the period, one on a back-check, and the five-minute major. There is nine minutes of penalties that are unnecessary... that's taxing on the guys. That is really taxing on the guys that are killing."
Frustration on the penalties
"As I've said you gotta play through that, you can't retaliate. We kept putting our fingers on the stove and we got burnt by it. That's a little bit of frustration, that's a little bit of self discipline. I mean there is a lot of pressure on the ice and the guys want to win all those types of things."
Teams overall improvement
"This team has made growth. You look at the good young players that have developed. Guys like Legwand who had a career year, Marty Erat is becoming a young star, young Radulov is going to be a young star. You look at our young defense we got Shea Weber playing against Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Billy Guerin and he's 21 year's old. And Ryan Suter... I mean this franchise has a great future."
Future of the club
"We've made great growth. You look at where we've come, how quickly we've come. You look around at teams that are similar to us in age as a franchise. We've done great things and I am very proud of what we've done. I mean we had 110 points this year. There is a couple of original six teams that have been around 80 years that have had 110 points."
PREDATORS GOALTENDER TOMAS VOKOUN
On his feelings after the game
Disappointment. I don't think there is anything else you can feel, obviously. It's a sport. It part of that. Sometimes you're going to lose, but it never gets easy.
On not advancing to the second round of the playoffs
I don't think its one thing. It's hard to say. There was taking penalties to not being able to score during key moments. It's all kinds of things. It's too emotional right now to look back. Now, it's total disappointment of playing all year and having such a great team and finishing the way we did, it's very disappointing. It has to be for everybody.
On the Sharks coming out on top in the series
It's extremely hard. I'm a very competitive person. If I could have done anything to change the... it's going to be a tough off-season for me. It's not going to be easy. This is going to hurt for awhile and you don't know how many chances you're going to get like this against a team like that. I love this town, I love this these fans, and I wish we could have given them a better run than this.
PREDATORS CENTER PETER FORSBERG
On the tough play of the Sharks during the first period
They played well in the first period. They got it down in our zone and we didn't play as good as we wanted; didn't get the pucks deep in the corners like we wanted all the way. They (were able) to regroup and come down in our zone. I thought in the second period, we came back and played real well, and had the momentum there. We scored two goals in a minute and had it going. Penalties called, penalties here and there, penalties not called, I think it really kind of killed us in the end. It's a tough way to go. I really thought we had a good chance and a good team to go far.
On if he has played his last game as a Nashville Predator
I don't know. I don't even know if I'm going to play next year. I have to take my time off. I struggled so much all year. Coming here though, I had a lot of fun. It's a great group of guys. It's just sad we had to leave and go out so early.
PREDATORS CENTER VERNON FIDDLER
On some of the players not returning next year
It's pretty emotional. Anytime you go to war with a bunch of guys like this, we just had such a close team. You want to give it everything you have every night for the guys that might not be here next year. It's part of our lifestyle. You get accustomed to seeing each other every day. Obviously, it's going to change in the summer and that's the way it goes. Right after you lose out, your life changes for four or five months. The worst part about hockey is being around your brothers and sisters for nine months and then you're away from them for four months. It's emotional just for the fact that we have such a close team; such a close organization. It's very family orientated, we take pride in that. When you look around the room and there are guys that might not be guys here next year, you want to do so much more for that. Obviously, there are always going to be some changes. There is never the same exact team. On that standpoint, I would have liked to have gone farther and made a run. We, more-or-less, shot ourselves in the foot.
On the penalty calls throughout the game
There are a few questionable calls that weren't called. I mean, let's play hockey. Let's be honest, if you're going to let something go, you have to let the other thing go. Its two teams going at it, fourth and fifth seed, you can't ask for a much better series, there were a few iffy calls, let go and called. Ultimately, that's not what it comes down to. We took too many penalties and they didn't. They capitalized and we didn't.
On not knowing what the standard was for penalty calls
Absolutely. It's the justice system. Whether it's going to happen, you don't know. You go to the net and you get hit, the ref's right there telling you it's a good battle, what does that mean? Is that allowed or not allowed? It's up to them and it's just frustrating, because you don't know what the standards are. That's not what it comes down to; we took too many penalties. There were calls that were called that should have been called and those are the ones that cost us.
SAN JOSE COACH RON WILSON
On putting that line together - Thornton, Marleau, Guerin
I made the change....putting those guys together sometimes really gets Patty (Marleau) going. I didn't think he was effective in the first half of the game. The idea was to get a spark first of all on the power play, then I was thinking of making that change anyway and so we carried it through to the third period.
On wrapping up the series in five games
Well that was huge. Certainly coming into this series didn't expect us to win again in 5 games its almost a carbon copy of last year. The difference was our power play wasn't great but our 5 on 5 play was excellent.
SAN JOSE FORWARD JOE THORNTON
On his line playing better
You know we had some great opportunities before, and we didn't connect...Ron (Wilson) put us out there on the offensive draw and said hey do something this shift. Patty (Patrick Marleau) you know kept the puck alive a couple times, really did a great job and ultimately it (the puck) just went in the back of the net. It was a just a good hard working shift for us
General game impressions
You know that's a great team over there (Nashville), they added some really good players and we added some really good players too so that's two really great teams going at it - its just too bad one team had to lose cause they (Nashville) had a good chance to go all the way...they played hard we just out-worked I think during the five games.
On the power-play struggles.
We had some chances early on, I thought we had a good chance on the five on three and it just wasn't going in...to score a power-play goal tonight, it was big for the team and it was just a matter of time before we got one.
SAN JOSE GOALTENDER EVGENI NABOKOV
On winning the series
Obviously we are excited that we beat a hell of a team. They are a great team and we are excited but we're gonna have a couple of days off and get back to work.
Obviously that's always a goal to get better and better and better, you I know I don't think they (Nashville) were trying to get better just because of us, I think they were trying to get better because they feel like they have to so as we are and here we are right now.
General game impressions
Our penalty killers did a great job and...I think we got the effort from everybody though and it just happened to be Patty (Marleau) scored the winning goal and that's awesome and he deserved it, he was working his butt off and it was great to see that.