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Preds force OT, but lose 3-2 to Sharks

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Brendan Witt
Photo courtesy of San Jose Sharks
Newly acquired defenseman Brendan Witt made his Predators debut Saturday, but was ejected 6:54 into the second period for participating in a bizarre scuffle with a Sharks player near the Predators bench.
The Nashville Predators found themselves spending a lot of time in the penalty box at the HP Pavilion Saturday afternoon, and despite tying the game with 11 seconds left in regulation to earn a point, they took a 3-2 overtime defeat when the San Jose Sharks scored on the power play 2:56 into the extra session. Paul Kariya tallied both Nashville goals as the Predators and goaltender Tomas Vokoun still managed to wrangle a point from a game in which they were outshot 43-19.

The overtime loss concludes a four-game West Coast road trip for a Nashville club that came away with something in all four contests and accumulated six of eight available points in the standings during the span. The Predators will return home with a record of 37-19-8 to open a four-game homestand Tuesday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

San Jose won Saturday's matinee game on a shot from the high slot by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, while the Sharks skated on their 10th power play of the afternoon. San Jose captain Patrick Marleau was stationed in front of the goal on the play and screened Vokoun, who had made 39 saves to give his side an equal chance to win the match in OT. And Predators captain Greg Johnson nearly did just that 1:40 into the sudden-death period, as he took a blind backhand pass from defenseman Marek Zidlicky and got good wood on a shot from the lower right circle that hit the legs of Marcel Goc on its trajectory toward an open portion of the Sharks' net.

"When we play five-on-five, we're a good hockey team and I'll stack us up against anybody," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "But we ended up taking a few too many [penalties]. Some of them were not good penalties, some of them were unfortunate penalties, and some of them were, I think, questionable. You've got to fight through that."

One of those "questionable" penalties was whistled against Jerred Smithson for allegedly closing his hand on the puck, and it proved to be costly as the Sharks took a 2-1 lead midway through the third period on the corresponding power play. With his team already killing a penalty, Smithson found himself without a stick and on his hands and knees along the wall in his own zone. The puck was beneath him, a Sharks player was repeatedly thrusting his stick blindly under Smithson in an attempt to dislodge it, and the Predators forward could be seen attempting--albeit unsuccessfully--to sling the puck along the ice with his right glove.

"I know he wasn't going to put his hand on the puck," Trotz said. "He was just using sort of his palms. But at the angle it is--and I think the referee was saying, 'Move it, move it,' and [Smithson] was--they call it. That's [when] you have to realize you're in that situation and you can do it maybe once or twice but you have to move on."

The Predators killed off the entire 1:40 of the resulting five-on-three disadvantage, but forward Mark Smith wired a shot just inside the right post with six seconds remaining on Smithson's penalty. The 2-1 lead, established at 12:13 of the third, nearly stood as the final score, but a desperate Predators club pulled Vokoun for an extra attacker in the final minute of regulation and the gamble paid off with 11 seconds remaining.

Tomas Vokoun
Photo courtesy of San Jose Sharks
Mike Sillinger logged 22:46 of ice time, the most since he joined the Predators on Feb. 1.
With the clock at :42.4 and Vokoun on the bench, Predators center Mike Sillinger lost a draw in the offensive zone. Two Nashville players outmanned a Sharks player in the right corner, though, and the Predators were able to work the puck around the perimeter of the zone. With less than 20 seconds left, Marek Zidlicky sent the puck from the left point to fellow blueliner Kimmo Timonen at the right point. Timonen bobbled the puck upon receipt, and as a result simply made the safe play of backhanding it along the boards deeper into the zone. Forward Steve Sullivan retrieved it down low and carried it to the left corner where he fired a hard shot parallel to the goal line. San Jose goaltender Vesa Toskala was tight against the left post and redirected the puck into the trapezoid-shaped area behind the net. In one fluid motion, Zidlicky swooped in past the left post, scooped up the puck, curled behind the goal cage and backhanded the puck toward the front of the net. It ended up bouncing off the right base of the goal and to Kariya, who had created just a little bit of separation from two defenders at the right edge of the crease. Nashville's scoring leader got his stick on the puck and was able to backhand it high over Toskala from a sharp angle to tie the game at 19:49, forcing overtime.

Kariya had also scored a goal 7:19 into the second period that gave the Predators a 1-0 lead. It came on a power play that arose from a bizarre scrap between Sharks forward Scott Parker and players on the Predators bench. Seconds earlier, Parker had been whistled for elbowing Jordin Tootoo on the right side of the head, and he was so enraged once sent to the penalty box that he was given a misconduct penalty and escorted off the ice. While leaving via a hallway that abutted the Predators bench, Parker leapt and grabbed the top of a glass partition between him and the bench, then pulled himself up enough to take a few swings at nearby Nashville players. Darcy Hordichuk reacted and attempted to get at Parker, but newly acquired defenseman Brendan Witt, who had logged a physical 6:36 of ice time in his Predators debut, was assessed a game misconduct for returning punches over the glass. Parker, meanwhile, ended his day with a handful of penalties that included the original elbowing call, a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a game misconduct.

"We only saw Brendan [Witt] for seven minutes in the game, but he was very effective," Trotz said of the big and experienced defenseman. "He's going to fit in great with us. It was an unfortunate trade off. Parker came over the glass, threw a punch at him. Your first reaction, especially in competition, is to push back. [He] and Hordichuk stood up for our team because Parker was coming over. Brendan's going to be great and he's going to be able to handle weight. I don't like the trade off of Parker for Witt, because Parker's a marginal player, but at the same time our guys were sticking up for each other and that's the most important thing."

Witt, who was also involved in a fight with Steve Bernier late in the first period, could have been useful for the remainder of the game, as the sizable Sharks had success most of the afternoon working the puck deep in Nashville's zone. A battle won along the end boards by San Jose forwards Scott Thornton and Joe Thornton led directly to Jonathan Cheechoo's goal, which tied the game at 1-1 13:56 into the second period. The Sharks' strength down low also resulted in a number of shots and penalties against the Predators, who enjoyed only 6:25 of power play time compared to San Jose's total of 17:54. The high volume of penalties--an issue that seemed to have abated during wins in Calgary and Vancouver earlier in the week--remains a concern for Trotz.

"Our resolve, our ability to battle and compete in some of those very desperate situations right now...we did that through a whole road trip. If we could have cut the penalties out in this game and in [last Sunday's 3-2 OT loss to] Edmonton, we could have had a perfect road trip. It'll come from the group, and I have all the confidence in the world that the group will get this corrected and be more consistent. It's just like working on different areas of your game. This is an area that we're just going to have to fight through and do a lot better job."

Notes: Nashville went 2-0-2 on the West Coast road trip that ended Saturday. Every game on the road trip was decided by a 3-2 score, and three of the four games were decided in overtime... Paul Kariya's two goals Saturday give him 22 on the season. He has posted three points (2g-1a) in his last two games and nine points (4g-5a) in his last eight games. His first goal Saturday came during a man-advantage and was the Predators' 73rd power-play goal of the season--a new club record. It was his ninth power-play goal of the season and gives him 34 power-play points--one short of tying the franchise record set by Marek Zidlicky in 2003-04. The game was Kariya's 19th multi-point contest of the season... Steve Sullivan, who assisted on Kariya's two goals, extended his point streak to three games (2g-4a). Saturday marked his 17th multi-point performance of the season... Defenseman Marek Zidlicky also assisted on both goals and is now tied with Kimmo Timonen as the Predators' top scoring defenseman. Zidlicky has 43 points (12g-31a) in 60 games. Saturday was his 11th multiple-point game of 2005-06... Nashville is now 7-8 in overtime games... The Predators went one-for-four on the power play and eight-of-10 killing penalties... The teams combined for 116 penalty minutes--54 for Nashville and 62 for San Jose. Scott Nichol (5'8", 173-pound) fought Milan Michalek (6'2", 215-pound) 16:31 into the first period as Brendan Witt tangled with Steve Bernier. Witt and Nichol each accumulated 17 PIMs before being ejected from the game... Defenseman Dan Hamhuis logged a season-high 31:42 of ice time, including 10:51 of short-handed time. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen logged a game-high 11:58 of time killing penalties and finished the game with a +1 rating... Mike Sillinger logged 22:46 of ice time--his most since joining the Predators on Feb. 1... Greg Zanon, Vern Fiddler and Kevin Klein were scratches for Nashville... Attendance at HP Pavilion at San Jose was a sellout crowd of 17,496.

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