The San Jose Sharks eliminated the Nashville Predators by winning the fourth game of their best-of-seven series, 2-1, on Sunday night. After losing the first game in Nashville on April 21, San Jose won the remaining four games to take the series and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
San Jose joins No. 7 seed Colorado, who eliminated second seeded Dallas earlier in the day, as semifinal participants.
The Sharks looked a bit off in the first five minutes of the game, turning over pucks in the neutral zone and not clearing the puck when they had the opportunity to do so. One such blunder nearly led to a Nashville goal, but Christian Ehrhoff got back quick enough to foil a three-on-one attempt. The play did land the defenseman in the penalty box, as he was called for cross-checking. The Sharks were able to kill off the penalty, something they must do the entire night in order to give themselves a chance to win.
The Sharks dodged another bullet when they clearly had Vesa Toskala beat as three Predators were buzzing around the net. The puck traveled through the crease, but Joe Thornton
was there to clear the puck out of the zone.
Nashville earned their second power play of the game when Grant Stevenson was called for hooking. The Predators lost their advantage one minute in after Yanic Perreault was whistled for tripping Milan Michalek. With 15 seconds left in Perreault’s penalty, Danny Markov was called for hooking and the Sharks had a very brief five-on-three. Both penalties expired without a goal, however.
But just seconds after Markov left the box, Brendan Witt was sent right back in for slashing Mark Smith. With two-tenths of a second left in the first period, Michalek wristed a shot on goal that Steve Bernier tipped past Chris Mason, giving the Sharks the 1-0 lead heading into intermission. The play went under review, as the officials weren’t sure if time had expired before the puck crossed the goal line. But after the review, the play stood and the Sharks had the 1-0 lead at the break.
When play resumed, the Sharks were forced to kill another penalty three minutes in after Bernier was penalized for interference. Nashville had trouble keeping the puck in the zone and by the time they had set up their power play offense, Bernier was out of the box.
By the middle of the period, the Sharks had been controlling play, but still only held their one goal lead. The teams were all tied up with 17 shots apiece.
The Sharks earned a power play with just over seven minutes left in the second after Martin Erat was called for roughing when he confronted Kyle McLaren who had just laid a huge hit on Paul Kariya. The Sharks ended up notching their second power play goal of the night when Joe Thornton
skated in and while fighting off a defender backhanded a pass to Patrick Marleau
out front who just stuck a stick on the puck and tipped it in. The Sharks now led 2-0.
The Sharks held on to their two-goal led when the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission.
The Sharks looked for their third power play goal of the night when Marek Zidlicky was called for tripping, sending the Sharks on their third power play of the night. The Sharks couldn’t muster much on the power play and the sides returned to even after the two minutes.
Midway through the frame, Toskala remained on top of his game, puzzling the Predators and stopping all 28 shots he faced up to that point.
But at 10:19, Tom Preissing got called for high sticking Kariya during a faceoff in the Sharks end. At 11:06, Nashville got their first goal of the game as Kariya took a pass from the left side and put the puck past Toskala to make the score 2-1.
Nashville got another chance on the power play when Ehrhoff was called for holding Kariya at 14:01, but the Sharks killed the penalty.
Nashville had numerous opportunities within the last minute, but the Sharks stood their ground. In fact, Smith had a chance at an empty net goal with 56 seconds remaining, but his shot rang off the post.
Marleau’s second period goal was his League-leading seventh of the postseason – in just five games. His seven goals is also the most scored by a Shark in a single postseason series…Preissing’s assist on Marleau’s goal gives him at least one assist in each of San Jose’s five playoff games. He started the day tied for fourth among NHL playoff participants in helpers and tied for second amongst NHL defensemen…Marleau and Bernier each had six shots to pace the Sharks…Hannan had five blocked shots, while McLaren had four…This is the second time San Jose has advanced to the semifinals after beating their quarterfinal opponent in five games (2002 vs. Phoenix and 2004 vs. St. Louis)…Toskala wound up stopping 34 of 35 shots…The semifinal round in both conferences will begin on May 5.