Goaltender Pekka Rinne put on a show in his crease, but the Finn’s 32 saves weren’t enough as the Predators suffered a 2-0 shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
The defeat snapped the Preds two-game win streak and prevented the club from sweeping a three-part road trip. Rinne turned aside 17 shots in the contest’s first frame alone, and 12 more in the second, but the lone goal he gave up in the opening period was the difference.
Sharks forward Tomas Hertl cashed in on an in-tight rebound chance on a play started by Joe Thornton to put the Sharks up 1-0 five minutes into the game. Rinne’s only blemish came at the 5:01 mark of the first and stood as the only tally for the next 43-plus minutes of game time until Thornton iced the contest with an empty netter.
“Historically [the Sharks] are very good at home,” Nashville forward Eric Nystrom said. “They’ve always been strong at their rink out of the gate, they had a fast start and we weren’t quite ready for it. We got better as the game went on, but still not good enough to get the job done.”
The home team held the Predators to just nine shots for the first half of the game and kept the visitor’s attack to the outside for the majority of the match. When Nashville started to push the pace in the third period, however, they still weren’t able to find the equalizer.
Eighteen saves from Antti Niemi in the third period kept the biscuit out of the Sharks net and the Preds off the scoreboard.
“It’s disappointing right now,” Preds Captain Shea Weber said. “We wanted to finish [the road trip] strong. It was a good start, we knew coming into [the game] the building was a tough place to play and they outplayed us. We’re not feeling very good about ourselves right now and we’re going to have to rebound next week.”
Predators skaters are usually quick to compliment their goaltender when talking about the club’s many instances of success. They weren’t just being nice on Saturday.
Rinne turned aside 29 shots in the first two periods including several wowing saves with the Sharks swarming the net mouth. The NHL’s leader in wins was dazzling in the crease - the sole reason the Predators remained close in a game in which they were outshot and outchanced.
One series in particular saw the six-foot-five Finn stone two Sharks shooters with the Preds penalty kill under siege in their own end. Rinne denied a Thornton bid at the side of his net before resetting and using his pad to prevent a Joe Pavelski one-timer from right on the doorstep.
“He’s the only reason that we were in that game until the third period; he played awesome,” Nystrom said of Rinne. “He made a lot of highlight-reel saves, especially on that PK. He was just so solid and it’s too bad we couldn’t get him a better result. He gave us an opportunity to maybe steal a point, but we just weren’t good enough.”
Rinne did his part with 29 saves through 40 minutes, but then was forced to watch as Nashville couldn’t push a puck across the Sharks goal line on the other end of the ice.
“He kept us in it and gave us a shot in the third period,” Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne’s play. “The puck was bouncing kind of funny even when we weren’t playing that well and it hurt us when we were trying to tie it.”
“Anytime you can help your team it’s always good, and that what I try to do on any given night,” said Rinne. “I always believe 100 percent that we’re going to score a goal and get it done. Even at the end there when I was pulled and we had six guys out, I believed we could score, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. You have to give San Jose credit.”
Weber Cut, Forced to Leave:
Predators Captain Shea Weber was forced to leave the game for 12 minutes during the second period after finishing a check on Sharks forward Tye McGinn in front of the San Jose bench. Weber was cut under the arm after falling awkwardly on the heel of McGinn’s skate blade and required stitches to close the laceration.
“Anytime we lose our bench, especially a guy like [Weber], it’s not a good thing at all,” Laviolette said.
The Preds offense remained flat during the stretch without Weber, but showed life in the final frame and in the moments once he returned. Despite his untimely absence, Weber finished with 20:16 of ice time, recording three shots and four hits on the night.
The Preds Captain said he wasn’t limited in the game’s remaining minutes once he did return.
The Predators were shut out for just the second time this season on Saturday night. Nashville fell 3-0 to Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. After Saturday’s loss against the Sharks, the Preds are now 9-7-1 when allowing the first goal. Nashville’s record against the Pacific Division fell to 7-2-1.