NASHVILLE –- Considering the Predators entered their game with the Sharks on Saturday with the fewest points from forwards in the NHL, they were probably overdue for a couple fortunate bounces.
They got them, along with some stellar goaltending by Pekka Rinne early, in a 6-2 win over the Sharks at Bridgestone Arena. San Jose dropped to 1-2 on its four-game road trip.
[RELATED: Instant Replay: Sharks stopped by Rinne, Predators on road]
Two Nashville goals were directly generated by awkward bounces off the glass. The first, by Calle Jarnkrok, gave the Predators a 2-0 second period lead when Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s clearing attempt hit a dead spot and was cut off by Ryan Johansson, who quickly found an open Jarnkrok in the slot.
“You can hit it hard or soft, if it hits the right part of the glass it’s just going to die, and that’s what happened,” said Vlasic, who called the glass at Bridgestone Arena, “Terrible. Really bad.”
One more unlucky bounce from San Jose’s perspective basically put the game away for the Predators in the third period. The Sharks were on a power play trailing 3-1 when Logan Couture hit the crossbar on a deflection attempt while charging the net. Shea Weber grabbed the loose disc and tried icing it, but it again took a strange carom in the neutral zone and Filip Forsberg finished off a three-on-one rush by humming it past Martin Jones.
“It’s tough to take when you have a chance to make it a game, then they score that one. … Pretty frustrating turn of events,” Couture said.
The Sharks never got any closer in just their second regulation loss in the last 13 (9-2-2).
The overall sense was that the game was closer than the final score indicated. After all, the Sharks had eight of the first 10 shots on goal, and were pressing early to get to Rinne after the Predators goalie allowed six goals on just 19 shots two nights earlier.
Rinne, though, made an impressive stop on Brenden Dillon tracking the puck through traffic and gloving it seven minutes in, denied Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on their prime chances from just outside the crease about a minute later, and got his head in the way of a Vlasic shot on a two-on-one with Ward with 8:30 to go in the opening frame.
James Neal’s power play marker on a slick feed from Johansson at 13:12 gave Nashville a lead it would not relinquish. Then came some of those strange bounces.
“I liked our start, liked our legs,” Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we could have had two or three in the first. Even in the second, I thought our game was still in a pretty good place."
Couture said: “At the end of the game I looked up and obviously saw it was 6-2, and it didn’t feel like a 6-2 game. It felt like we were in it for most of the game.”
Still, Rinne outplayed Jones in net, as Jones allowed five goals on 28 shots. DeBoer admitted, too, that the Sharks could have worked a little harder five-on-five, as they were outscored 4-0 at even-strength (not counting Weber’s late empty-netter).
“I don’t think it was just simply [bad] breaks,” DeBoer said. “They figured out a way to score some goals. We’ve got to be harder around the net, stick some more in five-on-five. We’ve got to get in the goalie’s eyes a little bit more so he doesn’t see them.”
The Sharks now face the daunting task of going into Chicago on Tuesday to challenge the first-place Blackhawks to conclude a nine-day journey coming out of the All-Star break.
Already looking ahead, DeBoer knows the game will be vital.
“Big picture, I like where we’re at, but we’ve got to get a win in Chicago to salvage the trip,” he said. “We don’t want to go 1-3 on this trip. It’s a big game on Tuesday.”