The Predators spotted the Sharks a 1-0 lead when Matt Irwin split the Predators defense and was wide open going down the slot. His wrist shot beat Pekka Rinne over his blocker for the first score of the game.
That was the only goal Rinne allowed as he stopped 42 of 43 Sharks shots. Some of his saves were absolutely amazing.
After that Sharks goal, the Predators ran off 5 straight goals to secure the win.
Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Predators as he blasted a shot from the blue line that went over the shoulder of Sharks netminder Alex Stalock to tie the game.
Craig Smith got the first of his two goals of the night as Stalock gave up a rebound that fluttered in the air. Smith, showing freat eye hand coordination, batted the puck out of the air and past Stalock to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
The second period opened with the Predators on the power play, and Smith notched his second goal going to the front of the net and jamming a rebound between the skate of Stalock and the post for a 3-1 lead.
Just 50 seconds later, Paul Gaustad took a pass from Gabriel Bourque and wristed the puck past Stalock for a 4-1 lead.
While the Predators were enjoying the three goal lead, the Sharks had no quit and kept attacking. With the Predators on the penalty kill, Rinne made 4 saves on a frantic scramble in his crease. Rinne stopped three quick shots with his pad and then plucked a shot from Joe Pavelski out of the air that seemed destined for the back of the net.
James Neal rounded out the scoring off a beautiful assist from Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro held the puck in at the Sharks blue line, spun around and found Mattias Ekholm, who got the puck to Neal. Neal snapped a wrist shot past Stalock for the Predators final goal and a 5-1 lead, the final margin of victory.
- I tweeted during the game that if Pekka Rinne doesn't win the Vezina and the Hart, it will be criminal. Rinne is absolutely amazing with his athleticism and his compete level, and some of his saves are incredible. The sequence in the second period when the Sharks were on the power play exemplifies his play this season. The Sharks tried three times to jam the puck past Rinne and he stopped all three attempts. Rinne had to be strong to turn back those point blank attempts, kicking out each attempt. He then tracked the shot from Pavelski and squeezed it it between the glove and the mask. After the whistle, you could see the looks on the faces of the Sharks, at to a man it was disbelief that they didn't score. Rinne was under pressure the entire game and was up to the challenge that the Sharks presented. Rinne picked up his League leading 34th win.
- I really liked the way the Predators attacked the Sharks throughout the game. Sharks score first? No big deal. The Predators just stepped on the gas and buried the Sharks under a relentless attack. The Predators have shown they can score brom the blue line- historically they have been good at that and they are again this year. But now they have a talented and explosive group of forwards that can score consistently and that is a welcome change for this team.
- James Neal scored his 20th goal of the season. This is the 7th consecutive season that Neal has scored at least 20 goals.
- This was the Predators 6th straight win, a season high.
- Kudos to the hardy fans that braved the ice and frigid conditions to show up for the game. The attendance was 8,215, and they were vocal and loud all night supporting the Predators.
- Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli, recently acquired in a trade from Toronto, were listed as scratches for the game as they were still getting their visas and other paperwork in place so they can join the team.
- Because of the scratches of Franson and Santorelli, Anthony Bitetto was a late recall from Milwaukee. Bitetto was not at the arena for the pre-skate and missed some time in the first period until he jumped on the ice for his first shift about 5 minutes into the game.
- Mike Ribeiro picked up two assists in the game tonight, his first being a beauty to set up Craig Smith's first goal. Ribeiro has such excellent hockey sense and on ice awareness and his ability to distribute the puck has been critical to the success of the team this season.
- There are a lot of things that are different about the Predators this season, but one aspect of this team that I really like is that this team just keeps attacking throughout the game. Rarely does this team get back on their heels, which was a characteristic of past Predator teams. That attacking style has paid dividends, as the Predators are 17-11-2 when the opposition scores first.
- Good to see the fourth line getting some scoring. Paul Gaustad was set up for his goal on a sweet pass from Gabriel Bourque. This was Gaustad's second goal of the season and his first since the Predators second game of the year.
- I said Craig Smith is a streaky scorer in my last game recap. Well, Smith now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and 17 on the year. Let's hope the hot streak continues.
That is why this win is so important for the Predators. Not only does it extend the Predators lead over the Blues in the Central, but it gives the team the confidence that they can not only play with the Sharks but dominate them.
And the Sharks have been a team in the past that has given the Predators fits. Having the confidence that as a team you can defeat an old nemesis does nothing but good things for the Predators as they head toward the playoffs.
Now it's on to the road and away from the friendly confines of the Bridge.
And it's time to bring this kind of effort in hostile environments.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Craig Smith
3. Shea Weber