SAN JOSE – Joe Pavelski whacked in a loose puck in front of the net, giving the Sharks a late third period lead they would not relinquish against the Predators on Sunday at SAP Center in a 3-2 win.
Less than five minutes after Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm scored the game-tying goal in the third period to make it 1-1, Pavelski managed to get his stick blade on a Matt Nieto rebound with 2:40 go to. It was his team-leading sixth of the postseason.
Joe Thornton, who set up Nieto with a cross-ice pass on Pavelski’s goal, scored an empty netter with 55 seconds left. That qualified as the game-winner, as Ryan Johansen snuck in a late marker with 3.6 seconds left in regulation.
The Sharks now lead their second round playoff series with the Predators, two-games-to-none. It shifts to Bridgestone Arena for Game 3 on Tuesday (6 p.m., USA).
Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with a power play goal late in the second period. Brent Burns blasted a point shot that got through to Pekka Rinne after Pavelski deflected it on its way. The goalie couldn’t control the rebound, and Couture pounced on it for his fourth goal at 18:36.
The Nashville penalty occurred when Roman Josi humorously hopped up on dasher in front of the San Jose bench to try to avoid a too many men on the ice penalty, but he didn’t fool the officials.
The Sharks were nailed for a too many men minor just before the goal, but killed off Nashville’s power play, which is now just 2-for-31 in the postseason.
It remained a 1-0 San Jose lead until Ekholm adeptly played a Colin Wilson pass off of his skate before whizzing in a wrist shot from high in the zone that beat Martin Jones to the top corner at 12:56 of the third period.
The Sharks are 7-2 all-time when leading a series two-games-to-none, including the first round this year against Los Angeles.
San Jose finished 1-for-2 on the power play, and is 3-for-5 in the series. The Sharks have at least one power play goal in five of their seven games.
Nashville was 0-for-3, and is 1-for-5 in the series.
Jones improved to 6-1 in his brief playoff career with 36 saves. He’s allowed just 15 goals over that span.
Rinne took the loss, allowing two goals on 24 shots. He’s 19-24 in his playoff career.
The Nashville goalie made the best save of the series early in the second period with the game still scoreless. He got in front of Couture’s attempt as the center broke through alone, and then somehow managed to stick his right pad out in time to deny Joonas Donskoi’s rebound try.
Burns, Couture and Pavelski each extended their point streaks to four games. Burns has eight points over that span (1g, 7a), as does Couture (3g, 5a). Pavelski has six (3g, 3a).
After missing Game 1 with a presumed lower body injury, Craig Smith returned to the Nashville lineup, starting on the second line wing with Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg.
The Sharks’ active lineup has been unchanged for each of their seven playoff games.
The Sharks will charter to Nashville on Monday for Games 3 and4 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday and Thursday. San Jose is 3-0 on the road in the playoffs, after winning a league-leading 28 this season.
The winner of Sharks-Predators will meet the winner of Stars-Blues, which is tied at 1-1, in the Western Conference Final.