The San Jose Sharks may have lost Game 1 of their series with Nashville, but they have responded in a big way, taking the last three contests and they now hold a 3-1 series lead. San Jose can close out the series with a Game 5 victory in Nashville Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. (FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com).
That may be easier said than done in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil.
“They are going to come out strong,” said Smith. “Their crowd is going to be heated up and the fourth win is the hardest to get. We’re just trying and keep things rolling.”
“You get to this point and you want to get the series over as quickly as possible in order to save energy,” said Wilson. “We all understand that the hardest win is the fourth win. We’re going to have our work cut out for us. In a couple of days, we’ll regroup and see who will pay the price and play the right way when it matters most.”
Nashville finally solved San Jose at even strength, scoring three times five-on-five, but two of those came after San Jose had established a 5-2 lead. The rally could give Nashville some momentum though heading into Game 5.
Nashville actually had the momentum when they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead in the second.
“We weren’t quite as ready to play tonight as were the other night,” said Wilson. “It took us a while to adjust to their pressure.”
If San Jose “comes to play” Sunday in Music City, they could play themselves right into the second round.
Mark Smith scored his third goal of the postseason and it ended up being an important tally in the 5-4 victory.
“Smitty seems to be scoring every game,” said Joe Thornton
Smith’s strong play found him on a line with Thornton and Cheechoo at times.
“When someone is playing well, they will get moved up a line and Smitty got the job done,” said Ron Wilson.
“Anytime I’m out there with Joe and Cheech, they will draw the attention,” said Smith.
It wasn’t just Smith’s goal, but his ability to draw penalties during the contest that helped Team Teal.
“They’ve been calling it tight all series, so I’m trying to keep my feet moving,” said Smith. “I’m just doing what I can. I’m not doing anything different, but this is the time you want to be peaking.”
Everyone knows the Sharks marquee trio of Marleau, Thornton and Cheechoo, but the other players are picking it up in the postseason.
“We have four lines that can skate,” said Smith. “We want to keep building on how we’re playing.”
“Marcel Goc, Mark Smith and Patrick Rissmiller got the job done (two goals) and drew some penalties,” said Wilson. “They clicked and seemed to be on the attack.”
TOSKALA WINS AGAIN
Friday night, the Predators outshot the Sharks 30-24, but Vesa Toskala allowed one less goal than Chris Mason for his third consecutive victory.
It did get a bit hairy in the third as Nashville closed a three-goal advantage to one and pulled their goalie late.
“We were a little sloppy at the end,” said Toskala. “They were coming down really hard and we have to be better.”
“We had enough of a gap to weather the storm,” said Wilson.
And what was going through his head when Nashville pulled their netminder for an extra attacker?
“Nothing,” said Toskala. “I was just trying to stay cool and calm. I was able to see all those shots. The clock seemed to slow down for us defending the lead. You just try not to focus on the time left.”
A lot of weight is put on the big saves late, but another goal allowed at any other point in the game would have forced overtime. Toskala remembered the shot he felt was his biggest stop.
“On the first power play, I made a kick save after a rebound,” said Toskala. “I think that was my best save of the day.”
The Sharks playoff netminder is enjoying the current run and not feeling the weight of the postseason.
“I’m just trying to be myself,” said Toskala. “Pressure is something you feel from yourself. I just think it is a good time to be playing hockey.”