Pekka Rinne (42 saves) and the Predator defense were the stars of the game as Nashville downed the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, and swept the three California teams on the road for only the second time in team history.
David Legwand had an unassisted goal in the first period and Sergei Kostitsyn had the game winner in the third and that was all the offense the Preds needed. Logan Couture had the lone goal for the Sharks in the second stanza.
Antti Niemi was the hard luck loser for the Sharks. As usual, Niemi’s inability to control rebounds was his downfall as both Predator goals were on misplaced rebounds.
The contest opened with sharp skating and plenty of shots by both teams. The Predators got on the board first at 13:10 in the first period when Legwand shot from the right faceoff circle, then crashed the net, corralled his own rebound, and then put it past Niemi for an unassisted goal to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. The real star of the opening period was Rinne who stopped all 18 Shark shots, many of which were quality scoring chances.
The Sharks came back and tied the game 1-1 at 4:35 in the second. The Preds got caught with too many men deep and the Sharks had a 2-on-1 on Cody Franson. Couture kept the puck on the rush and got a shot on Rinne that beat him on the high glove side.
The Predators were fortunate to come out of the second period still tied as San Jose was out working the Preds. The Sharks had won 26 of 42 face offs over two periods and led in shots, 11-6, in the middle stanza.
In the third period, Kostitsyn extended his goal streak to five games at 6:23 to put the Preds up 2-1. Kostitsyn started the play from the right corner beside Marcel Goc who passed the puck to Patric Hornqvist who shot at the net. Kostitsyn rushed the net from the side, picked up the rebound, and lifted it over Niemi for the goal.
With 1:36 left, Niemi left the ice and San Jose intensified the pressure on the Preds net. Twelve seconds later, the Sharks called a time out to plot the final strategy. In one final flurry, Couture hit the crossbar with 10 seconds left but the puck was cleared and the Preds sealed the victory.
With 4:12 left in the third, Marek Svatos appears to have joined the list of fallen Predators when he slid into the boards with his legs spread and left the ice, appearing to have a groin pull.
Andreas Thuresson played his first game of the year for the Preds taking Nick Spaling’s place on the checking line with Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson. He played 18 shifts with 14:05 of ice time. He led both teams in hits with six.
Through the midway point of the season, the Predators now have 50 points and are on pace to have their second straight season with at least 100 points.
The Predators returned to Nashville after the game and will have Sunday off before returning to the Bridgestone Arena to face the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night.