The Nashville Predators were in “must-win” mode Tuesday night, and they sure played that way.
The Preds scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their second round playoff series. The win cuts the Sharks series lead down to 2-1 in the best of seven.
The Sharks opened the scoring midway through the first period when a miscue from the Predators defense lead to a breakaway for Patrick Marleau. Pekka Rinne attempted to beat Marleau to the puck, but Marleau deked past him and scored on the empty net for the 1-0 lead. Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the assists of Marleau’s goal.
Early in the second period, Joonas Donskoi got caught on a tripping penalty, leading to a Nashville power play. The Predators’ crisp passing led to a beautiful one-timer from James Neal beating Martin Jones to tie the game. Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Johansen added the helpers on the goal.
The Predators would take the lead midway through the second, when separate penalties to each team led to a 4-on-4 rush for Nashville. Predators captain Shea Weber was left open by the blue line and ripped the puck past Jones’ glove at 14:44 of the period.
The third period saw Nashville take control of the game, peppering Jones with 12 shots compared to the nine Sharks shots thrown at Rinne. At the 6:55 mark Mike Fisher set up a passing play with Ryan Ellis, whose shot rebounded right to Colin Wilson. Wilson made no mistake, burying the loose puck into the corner of the net for a Preds two goal lead.
The Predators sealed the game when Filip Forsberg fired a seeing eye shot through Sharks defensemen Roman Polak and a screened Jones for the 4-1 finish. The Sharks had outshot the Preds in the game 27-25, but Rinne stood on his head, making 26 saves in the victory. Jones made 21 saves in the loss.
Game 4 is Thursday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville at 6 p.m.