SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After two nights of fists and fireworks
in Nashville, the San Jose Sharks didn't throw a punch or score a
power-play goal in Game 3.
They simply grabbed control of an incendiary playoff series with
steady, hard work -- and even the Predators were coolly impressed.
Both teams opened up with the same frenzied intensity of the
first two games in front of a deafening sellout crowd at the Shark
Tank. Both coaches worried about deflating after that initial surge -- but after Nashville took an early one-goal lead, San Jose calmly
"When you simplify the game, sometimes you get more
opportunities to be physical," said Sharks winger Mike Grier, who
gave another superb forechecking performance. "There were a lot of
things going on in the first two games, and that energy can work
against you. Everyone just settled down, and we got back to the
game we wanted to play."
Game 4 is Wednesday night at the Shark Tank, with Game 5 back in
Nashville on Friday.
After a double-overtime thriller and a bruising rematch in
Nashville, both 51-victory clubs were more mellow on the West Coast -- but there was nothing laid-back about the Sharks' effort. Though
the Sharks' vaunted power play is an inept 1-for-18 against
Nashville, hard work turned Game 3 in San Jose's favor during an
18-shot second period.
Even with Joe Thornton leading the attack, there's not much
flashy about it -- just the methodical intensity and imposing
physical game common to the Sharks' best performances.
"When we're on top of our game, we get the puck deep and try to
wear other teams down," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "I thought
we did a pretty good job of that."
Ryan Suter scored his first NHL playoff goal for the Predators,
who still haven't won a road playoff game in six tries over three
seasons. Tomas Vokoun stopped 38 shots in another solid
performance, but the Predators spent too much time scrambling back
"We got outplayed, plain and simple," Vokoun said. "They were
a better team, and the score shows it, and every stat you look at
shows it. Sometimes that's not exactly the story always, but
certainly it was today."
Steve Bernier was back in the Sharks' lineup after leaving Game
2 following a blindside hit by rookie forward Alexander Radulov,
who was suspended for the Predators' first game in San Jose. Scott Hartnell got the series' bad feelings started in Game 1 with a
knee-to-knee hit on Jonathan Cheechoo.
Both teams still played a physical game: Nashville winger Martin Erat left the ice in the second period after receiving a hard hit,
and Trotz said he'll be re-evaluated Tuesday. Michalek then left
with 2½ minutes left after Jason Arnott's stick apparently got
underneath his visor.
"We knew the energy level would be great in this building,"
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we had a pretty good
first period for coming into a tough place. In the second period,
the Sharks got momentum, a couple of penalties."
The Sharks' power play -- second-best in the NHL during the
regular season -- failed six times in the first two periods. But
Nashville's string of penalties wore out its penalty-killers and
frustrated the skill players who couldn't get on the ice.
But San Jose tied it midway through the second period when
Michalek tipped Craig Rivet's low shot from the point.
The Sharks' power play flopped again moments later -- but when
Paul Kariya left the penalty box and skated to his bench instead of
joining the Predators' defense, Clowe was unchecked when he scored
his second goal of the playoffs.
Nashville stayed close by aggressively killing off a 79-second
two-man advantage for the Sharks, but couldn't generate much
offense of its own despite long, exhausting shifts for Peter Forsberg and Kariya.
"We had a couple of chances to tie it up, but overall we need
to work harder, and we need to play a little smarter," Forsberg
said. "We didn't get the puck deep. They got the puck deep, and
they outworked us down low."
The series is the first opening-round playoff matchup
pitting two of the NHL's top five regular-season teams since 1990.
Nashville finished third overall with 110 points, while San Jose
was fifth with 107. ... Suter is the nephew of former Sharks D Gary Suter.