SAN JOSE — After seeing their season-high eight game winning streak come to an end on Saturday against Dallas Stars, the San Jose Sharks would waste zero time getting back in the win column on Tuesday night.
Patrick Marleau scored the game-winner at 3:24 of overtime to secure the 3-2 win and the critical two points that come with it.
Marleau sped down the right wing creating a two-on-one rush and ripped a wrist shot top corner, glove side over Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.
“That’s what Patty does,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan about Marleau’s game winner. “That was an extra gear, I’ve seen him skate but that seemed to be an extra one. I don’t know if there wasn’t any end boards, he might still be going, he was going that fast.”
Marleau’s heroics wouldn’t have been necessary however, if it wasn’t for the continued fantastic play by Nashville’s netminder. Rinne, who came into the game with a .949 save percentage in his last four games and a .968 save percentage against the Sharks this season performed as expected.
Rinne made three high caliber saves in particular during the opening twenty minutes. The first came off Sharks forward Kyle Wellwood in close after a quick feed from directly behind the net, and then another save off the same Sharks line saw a rebound chance for Torrey Mitchell denied by a sliding Rinne. And finally, a heads up body save on a turnaround wrist shot by Clowe from between the hash marks capped off the period.
All in all, Rinne made nine saves on 10 San Jose shots through the first 2o minutes.
Unfortunately for the Predators, Antti Niemi—appearing in his 22nd straight game for the Sharks—was just as impressive at the other end. The Predators had the only two power-play opportunities of the period and Niemi came up with solid stops during both of Nashville’s attempts. After Niemi shut down the first Nashville power-play, the Sharks were down 7-1 in shots but the overall play didn’t appear to be that one-sided.
And wouldn’t you know it once back at even strength, the Sharks would be the team to open the scoring.
Moments after Ryane Clowe nearly set up Heatley for a goal right in front of the crease, a hard pass from Jason Demers at the side boards would find it’s way past Rinne. Demers’ dish was initially redirected by Heatley towards the net where it bounced off Clowe’s leg and inside the far post for a 1-0 lead at 8:17.
A few minutes later, Clowe would take a hooking penalty in the offensive zone which put Nashville back on the power-play. While Niemi stopped a couple of early chances, this time around the Predators made the man-advantage count as Joel Ward earned credit for his eighth of the season at 14:22. Ward attacked the net from down low to the right side of Niemi, forcing the rubber to the crease. His shot would be stopped by Niemi but it ended up pin-balling off Ian White and trickling in short-side to tie the score at 1-1.
Nashville continued to hold their own against the Pacific division leading Sharks during the middle stanza. Led by the line of Colin Wilson, mid-season acquisition Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn—by far the most dominant line for the Predators from start to finish—Nashville kept a consistent flow of chances in their offensive end. Early on in the second, that trio combined to set Fisher up for a glorious point-blank opportunity in front of Niemi but Fisher’s shot sailed high and wide.
San Jose quickly countered the other way as Torrey Mitchell would draw a hooking penalty on an impressive individual rush down the right wing, putting the Sharks on their first power-play of the game.
Despite missing power-play quarterback Dan Boyle for the fifth straight game, the Sharks elected to switch things up a the point. Instead of Demers running the power-play on the top unit, it would be the newest Shark in Ian White at the helm of top unit. To start the power-play, this newly formed unit struggled and it wasn’t until the newly formed second unit came on the ice that the Sharks converted.
Demers’ second unit got the job done as fellow defenseman Ryan Braun scored his second of the season. The play started off with Clowe digging a loose puck off the boards before dishing off a two-foot pass to Heatley who drew pressure from the defenders before hitting the wide open Braun with a backhand pass at the point. San Jose’ rookie defenseman took the ice available and fired a shot that beat Rinne off a deflection.
“Lucky to go off another guy’s stick and into the net,” Braun remarked about his goal. “Nice to contribute and feel more apart of it…helps the confidence, any goal up here it’s hard to get.”
Braun’s goal, which came at 4:17 on the power-play gave the Sharks a lead that would last less than two minutes. With Devin Setoguchi serving a bench minor for too many men on the ice, Shea Weber tallied his 14th goal of the year. Set up by great give and go teamwork by David Legwand and Marin Erat, all Weber had to do was slam the puck home into an empty right side of the net as Legwand’s pass went through the crease from glove side to stick side and right onto his tape.
Midway through the period, the Sharks regained some momentum but Rinne once again became the center of attention, stoning Logan Couture on a semi-breakaway after the rookie center intercepted a pass in the Nashville zone and was all alone. Couture shot stick side but was turned away by the blocker. A couple minutes later Setoguchi was denied by the right pad on a nice set up from Marleau behind the net.
At the opposite end, Niemi was tested frequently, the first of which came on an awkward bouncing puck off a turnover that landed on Legwand’s stick right in front of the net. Niemi was up to the task though, settling the bouncing puck and covering it up without allowing and second opportunity. Yet Niemi’s best saves of the period and the game came on Nashville’s fourth power-play.
With Joe Thornton in the box for elbowing, Niemi had to make a full extension glove save as he did the splits to reach and snag a point shot from the left side and moments later he stopped Weber from in close on the right side. The shot would create a rebound that nearly went in but a sliding Demers helped keep the puck out of the net.
Niemi’s play in goal kept the game tied going into the final period where San Jose took over.
The Sharks out-shot Nashville 13-4 in the third and the lopsided shot total exactly mirrored San Jose’s dominance. Even though they didn’t score, every line seemed to create chances, including the third line of Wellwood, Mitchell and Joe Pavelski who continued to impress despite not getting on the score-sheet.
While they only saw one opportunity, the Sharks’ top power-play unit was much more crisp, generating tons of chances including a couple point shots from White that nearly found the back of the net. However, not a single shot would get past Rinne who once again came up stellar in the third period, turning away quality chances including a brilliant redirect by Pavelski mid-way through.
This game would head to overtime where Marleau’s heroics got the Sharks back in the win column.