Photo by Don Smith/Rocky Widner
Predators center Jason Arnott is stopped by goaltender Evgeni Nabokov on a breakaway chance early in the second period.
The Nashville Predators fell to the San Jose Sharks 3-1 Monday night in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at HP Pavilion at San Jose. Ryan Suter scored 11:53 into the match to put the Predators on the board first but San Jose rallied with two second-period goals and an insurance marker with 4:26 left in the third.
San Jose takes a 2-1 series lead with the win. Game 4 of the best-of-seven series will take place Wednesday night in San Jose.
Nashville got the fast start it wanted in its first road game of the playoffs, but penalties and an inability to get the puck deep behind San Jose's defense with regularity were the determining factors in the game. Turnovers near center ice allowed the Sharks to counter repeatedly, creating scoring chances and forcing Nashville players to take penalties while spending a preponderance of time in their own half of the ice.
With Nashville up 1-0 after one, San Jose's Milan Michalek tipped a Craig Rivet point shot 8:38 into Period 2 to even the score. Ryan Clowe gave the Sharks the lead less than four minutes later, taking a pass from Matthew Carle and depositing it past Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun from the right circle. The Sharks were awarded four power plays--including a 1:19 5-on-3 advantage--in the middle frame while the Predators got their first manpower advantage with less than two minutes remaining in the second. Nashville's penalty killers nullified all six power plays they faced in the game. The Predators finished the night 0-for-2 on the power play.
The play that led to Suter's goal began with San Jose deep in the Nashville zone. Sharks forward Bill Guerin attempted a sharp-angle shot from the corner and it deflected off Vokoun to the half wall where Nashville's J.P. Dumont picked up the puck. Dumont went up the right wing to lead the rush and dished to David Legwand in the left face-off circle. San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks defense shifted to address Legwand's threat, then Legwand sent the puck back across the slot to Suter in the right circle. With plenty of net to shoot at, Suter made no mistake for his first career playoff goal.
Vokoun looked strong in the first, stopping all 11 shots he faced, and the Predators killed off two San Jose power plays in the final six minutes of the first. His strong play continued in the second despite the two Sharks goals. Vokoun stopped 16 of 18 second-period shots, with one standout save coming just over three minutes before the second intermission when he denied Mike Grier on a point-blank rebound chance as San Jose was riding a wave of momentum.
Nabokov was very sharp at the other end of the rink, stopping 19 of 20 shots in the game. Two minutes after Nabokov flexed his right leg pad to turn aside a threatening tip chance by Scott Hartnell, Sharks captain Patrick Marleau extended the lead to two goals. Nashville lost the puck on a defensive-zone pass from Dan Hamhuis to Peter Forsberg. Bill Guerin took the puck and carried it up ice for a shot from the high slot. Marleau was cruising through the slot and used his stick to deflect Guerin's drive past Vokoun on the glove side.
ERAT EXITS EARLY: Forward Martin Erat left the game 10:08 into the second period and did not return after suffering a right leg injury. Head coach Barry Trotz said Erat is considered day-to-day until evaluated more thoroughly on Tuesday. Due to the setup of HP Pavilion, Erat and trainer Dan Redmond had to wait for a stoppage in play before they could leave the bench, make their way across the ice to the far corner and exit through a door to head to Nashville's locker room. Forwards Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg also did the same with equipment manager Pete Rogers at different points during the second period for skate and equipment repairs.
NOTES: J.P. Dumont posted an assist on Ryan Suter's goal, giving him points in each of the first three playoff games. He has 5 points (4g-1a) so far in the series... David Legwand assisted on Suter's goal and has assists in two straight games... Goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped 38 shots as Nashville was outshot 41-20 by San Jose... The Predators scored the first goal of the game Monday, marking the first time in the series they opened the scoring... Nashville's penalty killers have allowed just one goal on 18 power-play chances against this series, making them the No. 1 penalty-killing team in the playoffs through games on April 16. That lone goal they allowed was scored while San Jose enjoyed a two-man advantage in the second period of Game 1... Predators forward Darcy Hordichuk saw his first action of the 2007 playoffs, filling the roster spot vacated by Alexander Radulov, who served a one-game league suspension Monday... Scratches for Nashville were Vitaly Vishnevski, Steve Sullivan and Alexander Radulov.