A playoff-like atmosphere brought the best out of the Predators.
Juuse Saros was stellar, and Ryan Johansen tallied what proved to be the game-winner on the power play, as Nashville defeated the San Jose Sharks by a 3-1 final on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. The result gives the Preds five out of a possible six points to conclude both their current homestand and their season series against the Sharks.
"It was a playoff game out there, it had that feel to it," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "It was hard fought, but not an up-and-down game that had a lot of chances, especially early on. I was really happy with the way we stuck to it and got back to it in the third. There was physicality, there was not a lot of room and it had that playoff feel to it."
Even better, Nashville has points in seven of their last eight outings, and while the group still has work to do in the standings, the most recent stretch is helping them with the climb.
"It's something we talked about," Preds Captain Roman Josi said. "We are obviously not happy with where we are in the standings, and we need to put together some wins. We've done a good job lately."
Video: SJS@NSH: Bonino converts Granlund's pass for PPG
The game's opening 40-plus minutes flew right by without a single goal, but less than five minutes into the third, Bonino took a beautiful feed from Mikael Granlund and wristed home his team-leading 12th goal of the season. Midway through the final frame, Saros stoned Barclay Goodrow on a penalty shot, and then minutes later, he robbed Timo Meier on another breakaway.
Video: SJS@NSH: Johansen doubles the lead with PPG
"The third was our best period," Josi said. "We kept pushing, kept going forward and Bonino with a huge goal and then a huge power-play goal after. Things didn't go the way we wanted the whole game, but you see how important a power-play goal is."
The Sharks got one late when Meier broke the shutout, but Calle Jarnkrok iced it with an empty-netter to give the Preds a 2-0-1 record to finish the season series with the Sharks.
Video: SJS@NSH: Saros robs Meier with his glove
"It was a bit of a weird game for a goalie - there wasn't a lot of work in the first period, yet he had to make some really big saves in the second period to keep things even," Laviolette said of Saros. "We were doing a pretty good job in the third period, then he found himself with a breakaway, a penalty shot and a partial breakaway, and then he made four really big saves just to keep them at bay. He seemed like he was in control the entire game."
In the waning minutes of the second stanza, a low-event game to that point turned rather feisty, including a scrap that saw Austin Watson and Evander Kane go at it with two seconds to play in the period. That turn of events seemed to rally the Preds, and they came out flying in the third, getting one and then two goals.
"It got a little intense there," Bonino said. "Watty stepped up and had a huge fight and got us going. We came out in the third, and I thought we played really well."
"It's two teams that are fighting to put some wins in the column and both of our groups are looking at the standings trying to make up some ground," Johansen said. "It got a little intense. I guess for that reason."
Those goals, coupled with a few bouts of larceny from Saros, sent the home crowd into a frenzy as the Predators to locked it down late to earn one of the more satisfying victories of the season - and their 800th overall in franchise history.
"It's a great team win," Johansen said. "They had their chances, Juice made some huge saves and we had a couple in the third and found a way to get some goals and close out the win."
Video: Jarnkrok, Saros lead Predators to 3-1 victory
Mikael Granlund returned to the Nashville lineup on Tuesday after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Yakov Trenin and Yannick Weber were scratched for the Preds against San Jose.
With their three-game homestand now complete, the Predators will head to Buffalo for a single game (at 6 p.m. CT) before returning to Bridgestone Arena to host the Dallas Stars (at 5:30 p.m.) for the only meeting between the two clubs prior to the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.