Marleau, Sharks eliminate Predators
The San Jose Sharks eliminated the Predators from the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second consecutive year, witha 3-2 win Friday night in Nashville, Tenn.
Patrick Marleau scored a pair of goals, including the game winnerwith 4:21remaining inthe third period, giving the Sharks a 4-1 series win in the NHL Western Conference quarter-final.
In last year's best-of-seven opening-round series, San Jose also knocked out the Predators in five games.
"I certainly coming into this series didn't expect us to win again in five," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "It's almost a carbon copy of last year.
"They took a lot of penalties. The difference was our power play wasn't great. Our five-on-five play was great. Very tight series."
With the Sharks applying heavy pressure in Nashville's end, Marleau took a pass from centre Joe Thornton and one-timed a shot behind goaltender Tomas Vokoun for a 3-2 San Jose lead.
"He found me open like he always does," said Marleau.
The Sharks then killed a critical penalty with 21 seconds remaining in the game to preserve the win.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov continued to shine for San Jose on Friday, making 22 saves.
Winger Ryane Clowe scored the other goal for the Sharks, while Jason Arnott and Vernon Fiddler replied for Nashville.
Capitalizing on turnover
The Sharks opened the scoring at 8:21 of the first period after Clowe created a turnover in Nashville territory.
Clowe followed the play down low and slid a rebound shot behind Vokoun.
The Predators drew even at 3:47 of the second with a power-play goal.
Sharks defenceman Scott Hannan steered the puck out of the crease, but Arnott was in the slot to knock the rebound by Nabokov.
Nashville immediately pressured the Sharks off the next faceoff, leading to a 2-1 edge less than a minute later.
Centre Peter Forsberg picked up the loose puck, circled behind the Sharks' net and fed a pass to Fiddler, who fired home his first goal of the post-season.
But the Sharks capitalized on a costly major spearing penalty by Predators centre Scott Nichol to tie the contest 2-2 and shift the momentum of the game.
Marleau completed a nifty passing play with linemate Bill Guerin by bearing the rebound into the open side of the net with less than three minutes remaining in the second.
It was only the Sharks' second power-play goal of the post-season, compared to the nine they scored last year against the Predators in the opening round.
The Predators make an early exist despite an overhaul to the roster that began with the signings of Arnott and forward J.P. Dumont last summer.
Nashville GM David Poile then traded for Forsberg weeks before the trade deadline in the hope of a playoff run to the Stanley Cup final.
"We kept putting our fingers on the stove, and we got burnt by it," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz.
With files from Associated Press