The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators met in a do-or-die Game 7 on Thursday night at SAP Center for the right to move on to the Western Conference Final.
The Sharks played in their first Game 7 since the first round in 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings completed their remarkable comeback.
San Jose is 5-4 all-time in Game 7, including a 2-1 mark at home, with its only home loss coming to the Kings in 2014.
“I love our game at home,” Sharks center Joe Thornton told NHL.com correspondent Eric Gilmore. “I really do. I know it was a big part of the story going into the postseason, how our home record was. But I’ve loved our home game and I love the energy the crowd has been giving us. It’s been great.”
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer has won his only previous Game 7 with the New Jersey Devils, a 3-2 win in double overtime against the Florida Panthers.
“I think the challenge of your group is just to bring their best game and throw it at the other team,” DeBoer said. “I’m confident we’re going to do that, and the results usually take care of themselves.”
The Predators forced their first Game 7 in franchise history in the first round this season, and defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette is 5-1 in Game 7’s in his career, but said he didn’t have any particular insights to pass along to his players before Thursday’s game.
“There’s no magic piece of paper in my pocket, I can tell you that,” Laviolette said. “Our guys will be ready. Our players are excited about going there, excited about the opportunity to get to a Game 7 and play in it.”
Viktor Arvidsson was given a minor penalty for delay of game for sending a puck over the glass. The Sharks benefited from the man advantage, as Joe Pavelski scored on the power play to give his team a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period.
Joel Ward bopped around a defender at the blue line then slipped the puck through the legs of Preds goalie Pekka Rinne for his second postseason goal. The Sharks took a 2-0 lead at 16:51.
The Sharks led the Predators 2-0 after 20 minutes. Shots (17-3) were in favor of San Jose.
22 seconds from the power play were carried into the beginning of the second period. However, the Sharks were unable to capitalize on the man advantage, and 5-on-5 hockey resumed.
Following a turnover by the Preds in their own zone, Logan Couture snapped a shot past Rinne to extend the Sharks’ lead to 3-0 just 36 seconds into the second.
Mattias Elkholm was called for cross checking Tommy Wingels at 20:00 of period two, and the Preds’ penalty was carried into the third period.
The Sharks led the Predators 3-0 after 40 minutes, outshooting their opponent 23-8.
Once again, San Jose capitalized on the man advantage. Joe Thornton finished a four-on-one rush by slipping a rebound past Rinne for a power-play goal just 32 seconds into the third to expand the Sharks’ lead to 4-0.
Patrick Marleau completed a two-on-one rush by firing a shot past Rinne to increase the Sharks’ lead to 5-0 at 3:54.
The game was rather physical because Nashville outhit San Jose 46-31.
The Sharks turned the game into a feeding frenzy and eliminated the Preds in seven games with a 5-0 shutout win at SAP Center. Martin Jones made 20 saves for San Jose. Pekka Rinne made 21 saves for Nashville. Carter Hutton made one save after Rinne was pulled in the third.
San Jose went 2-for-3 on the power play, while St. Louis went 0-for-1.
With the win, the Sharks advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2011.
Sharks left wing Matt Nieto did not play in Game 7. Nieto left the first period of Game 6 with an undisclosed injury after crashing into the net late in the frame. The 23-year-old forward picked up the primary assist on Chris Tierney’s second goal of the contest.
Sharks forward Tommy Wingels returned to the lineup on the fourth line after being a healthy scratch for Games 5 and 6.
Up Next: Game 1 between the Sharks and Blues is Sunday at 7:00 pm CT on NBCSN, TVA and CBC.