(SAN JOSE, Cal.) Pekka Rinne turned back 42 shots and Sergei Kostitsyn banged home a rebound that deflected off Sharks’ defenseman Jason Demers’ stick as the Nashville Predators hung on for a 2-1 victory at San Jose. The win was Nashville’s fifth straight, giving them a pair of 5-game win streaks sandwiched around a 5-game losing skein since December 8.
After Thursday’s unwatchable shutout loss to Buffalo, the Sharks came out hard and strong against Rinne, but he stopped everything he saw Saturday night, and almost everything he didn’t.
“Our goaltender stole this one for us,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz. “We battled pretty hard. But we were looking like a pretty tired hockey team. We’re missing a lot of people. Guys are really pushing hard. We gave up some really prime chances in the second but then I thought we settled in pretty well. Rinne was great. He was the difference really.”
Nashville opened the scoring when Anttii Niemi let a rebound get out into the slot. Sharks blueliner Dan Boyle lost an edge and collided with Niemi while Dave Legwand corralled the puck and flipped it into an empty net, unassisted, at 13:10 of the first.
“All night the puck was bouncing, a lot,” said Boyle. “It was really ugly at times out there. It’s a sh***y bounce. It bounces, I fall, and that’s the way it is. I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself or for us, but it sucks, you know. I was trying to clear it out of the zone, it’s bouncing, coming right at me, and I don’t even know if I was tripped or I fell. It’s frustrating.”
The Sharks tied the game in the second period, when Ryane Clowe intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and fed Logan Couture coming down the left side on a 2-on-1 rush. Jamie McGinn rushed the net, Rinne flinched in his direction, and Couture snapped a wrist shot from the circle top-shelf at 4:35 of the period.
“Clowe made a great play,” said Couture. “We had an odd-man rush, and I waited for (McGinn) to create a question in the goalie’s mind, then I picked a spot and I was able to shoot it.”
The Sharks kept the pressure on all evening, but suffered a bit of misfortune in allowing the winning goal.
Kostitsyn’s shot from the side of the net found Demers’ stick, which deflected the puck behind Niemi and off the twine at 6:23 of the third.
“I’ve got to move past it,” Demers said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that happened in that point of the game; it just went off my stick into the net the wrong way. They teach us to put it in the corner, I tried to, and it went off my stick the wrong way.”
Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who was clearly disgusted by the effort his team showed Thursday night, was please with the effort against Nashville, but not, obviously, with the results.
“You can live with it when you’re cruising along, and it’s your first loss in five or six games, but that’s not the case in our situation. I have seen it happen before, where players rally around a teammate like (Demers), and I’ve seen us come out with a hell of an effort the next night. Let’s see if we can do it again.”
McLellan said there was much more frustration after Thursday night, because players couldn’t even look each other in the eye after their effort, but, “tonight, the frustration is there because the effort WAS applied, and we didn’t get what we needed or wanted, but we showed up and played hard. We put some more games like that together and we will win our share.”
The Sharks play Sunday evening in Anaheim to complete the back-to-back before returning home for three more games next week.