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The Nashville Predators were in “must-win” mode May 3, and they sure played that way.
The Predators scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in game three of their second round playoff series. The win cuts the Sharks’ series lead down to 2-1 in the best-of-seven.
The Sharks opened the scoring midway through the first period when a miscue from the Predators defense lead to a breakaway for Sharks’ forward Patrick Marleau. Predators’ goalie Pekka Rinne attempted to beat Marleau to the puck, but Marleau deked past him and scored on the empty net for the 1-0 lead. Sharks’ forward Tomas Hertl and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the assists on Marleau’s goal.
Early in the second period, Sharks’ forward Joonas Donskoi got caught on a tripping penalty, leading to a Nashville power play. The Predators’ crisp passing led to a beautiful one-timer from right winger James Neal beating Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones to tie the game. Defenseman Mattias Ekholm and center Ryan Johansen added the helpers on the goal.
The Predators would take the lead midway through the second, when separate penalties to each team led to a 4-on-4 rush for Nashville. Predators captain Shea Weber was left open by the blue line and ripped the puck past Jones’ glove at 14:44 of the period.
The third period saw Nashville take control of the game, peppering Jones with 12 shots compared to the nine Sharks shots thrown at Rinne. At the 6:55 mark, Predators’ forward Mike Fisher set up a passing play with defenseman Ryan Ellis, whose shot rebounded right to left winger Colin Wilson. Wilson made no mistake, burying the loose puck into the corner of the net for a Predators two goal lead.
The Predators sealed the game when left winger Filip Forsberg fired a seeing eye shot through Sharks’ defenseman Roman Polak and a screened Jones for the 4-1 finish. The Sharks outshot the Predators 27-25, but Rinne stood on his head, making 26 saves in the victory. Jones made 21 saves in the loss.
Game four is set at 6 p.m. May 5 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.