Tonight’s game should be remembered as the ‘Joel Ward Show’ because that’s exactly what it was. He led the Sharks to a 5-2 third period comeback win against the Nashville Predators in game 1 of the second round, netting a goal and an assist.
The first period was mainly a defensive one. Both teams seemed to be playing it safe and didn’t want to try and make a strong push for fear of messing up. That’s not to say that there wasn’t offense and scoring chances though as both teams traded them. The Predators had some good chances early in the game and the Sharks really laid into Rinne in the last few minutes of the game, but no one found the back of the net.
Things opened up quite a bit in the second period. Nashville started the scoring on a power-play goal by Mike Fisher when he took a pass across the ice from Ryan Johansen and beat Martin Jones over his right shoulder. Immediately after the goal, the Predators put some pressure on the Sharks and it seemed that they may score again, but the home team stepped it up and turned things around. San Jose had a power-play and even though they didn’t score on it, they got some good chances and for the next few minutes they completely took over the game. Of course, Pekka Rinne stopped every shot because, well, he’s playing the Sharks, but we looked good.
Now for the third period. Well, this is where the scoring floodgates opened and we learned that Pekka is, in fact, human. I don’t know if the black cat on the ice talked to the guys during intermission or something, but whatever it was, it worked. First off, the Sharks absolutely DOMINATED the entire period. I mean they just kept attacking and never really stopped. After two periods of getting everything they threw at Nashville stopped, San Jose came out with fire in their eyes and tied the game up just over two and a half minutes in. Tomas Hertl was hanging out just to the right of Rinne by himself, took a pass from Ward and beat the goalie short side on the Sharks second PP of the night. From there you could almost feel another goal coming eventually. And we got it with 11:49 left in the game from our savior Joel Ward. Joonas Donskoi took the puck into Nashville’s zone and passed it up to Wardo, who had a step on the Predators defense. He took it to the right of the goalie and Rinne spread out onto the ice. As Ward was near the goal line he popped it right into the open net to give the Sharks the lead. Minutes later, the Sharks got some insurance when Logan Couture tipped a Joe Pavelski shot, that went right through through Rinnes five-hole on the PP. But, Nashville would not go quietly into the night and Ryan Johansen scored with the goalie pulled to make it 3-2. That was it for them though, 20 seconds later Logan Couture scored an empty netter to make it 4-2 and, just for good measure, Tommy Wingels potted the teams second empty netter for a final 5-2 score.
- The Sharks second line was on fire tonight. Ward, Couture and Donskoi were great together. They scored that second goal and drew a penalty for Couture to score the teams third. They’ll definitely be sticking together for a bit.
- Our power play is going to be huge this series. They went 2-for-3 tonight and those goals were the equalizer and the game-winner. Nashville took a lot of penalties last round against Anaheim so if they continue that trend and San Jose can continue their PP success, we could be looking at a pretty short series.
- Jones had some really good saves tonight and finished with 29 saves on 31 shots. That being said, I think he should have had that Mike Fisher goal.
- This series is going to be completely different from the LA series, play-style wise. We saw this tonight. The Predators are more about speed and skill than the hard-hitting Kings are, so we shouldn’t expect to see these guys crushing each other into the boards. Sure it’ll be physical, but both of these teams are more about skill than size.
Three stars of the game
First Star: Joel Ward (Goal, Assist)
Second Star: Logan Couture (2 Goals, 5 shots)
Third Star: Brent Burns (2 Assists, 6 shots)
The Sharks will look to take a 2-0 series lead over the Predators on Sunday. They play at 5 pm Pacific time in San Jose.