Two goals, in any form, doesn’t sound like too much to ask.
For the Nashville Predators, though, that was a tall order – until Tuesday.
The Predators scored twice in each of the first two periods, and two of those goals came on the power play. Those relatively rare occurrences – for Nashville, at least – added up to a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks before 13,324 at Sommet Center.
“We got a lot of quality chances,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… Obviously we converted on a few of them. The power play gave us two goals, and that was real big for us.”
The last time Nashville scored more than once in each of the first two periods was March, 4, 2008 at Edmonton, a span of 115 games.
In this one, Steve Sullivan and Jerred Smithson found the mark 2:47 apart in the first. Then Joel Ward and David Legwand each hit the net within a span of 2:41 of the second period as the Predators built a 4-1 lead with 9:03 to play before the second intermission.
“We were stressing (the need) to try and get up early and try to get the first (goal),” Ward, who had a career-high three points, said. “Obviously playing catch-up against that team is pretty tough. We knew what we were up against, and we tried to apply as much pressure as we could and tried to capitalize whenever we had a chance.”
The Sharks came in with the league’s best record at 14-4-4. Their 32 points were at least five more than every other team in the Western Conference.
Also, with a success rate of 87.8 percent, they had the league’s best penalty kill.
Nashville (10-8-1) was last in the league in power play goals (eight) and success rate (11.6 percent) yet became the first team this season to convert twice against San Jose.
Sullivan got the first when he scored with 25 seconds remaining on a two-man advantage. Ward got the second when redirected Ryan Suter’s point shot into the net with with 10 seconds to go on a tripping penalty against defenseman Dan Boyle.
It was just the second time this season the Predators scored more than one power-play goal and it equaled their total number of conversions in the previous five games combined.
“We got lucky with the 5-on-3,” Sullivan said. “Whenever you get one of those, you have to bury it. We did a good job there, and I thought the other unit had some good movement and got a great tip in front by Ward.”
San Jose made it interesting when it got a goal from Joe Thornton in the final minute of the second period, and one from Patrick Marleau, with an assist by Thornton, in the final minute of the third. Ultimately, though, it was unable to force overtime was handed its first regulation loss in 14 games.
“Obviously, they’re a team that can shut teams down when they do have a lead,” Legwand said. “We got out to a 4-1 lead there and kind of sat back a little bit. That wasn’t really the way we wanted to go about things, but that’s what happened.
“We got the two points.”
They couldn’t ask for any more.
• Trotz delivered pointed criticism of the Sommet Center clock operator after time was not stopped when it should have been twice in the final minute of play.
Necessary efforts to reset the clock properly caused delays, which allowed the Sharks to keep their top unit, including Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley – all among the NHL’s top 10 scorers – on the ice.
“To me, it was really unacceptable to be the team at home and we’re giving free timeouts to arguably the best five players in the league when they’re put together,” Trotz said. “That happens fairly regularly here, and it happened twice (in this game).
“… We have to get it corrected with our off-ice officials. That’s absolutely unacceptable.”
• Nashville outshot San Jose 14-9 in the first period as 14 different players recorded one shot each. The only ones who did not were Suter and forwards J.P. Dumont, Martin Erat and Jordin Tootoo. Suter and Dumont each had an assist, though.
• The Sharks’ first goal offered a bit of nostalgia for Predators’ fans.
Scott Nichol scored it shorthanded, and the primary assist went to Jed Ortmeyer. Both were in the Nashville organization last season.
• Washington coach Bruce Boudreau got his 100th career victory Tuesday when the Capitals defeated the New York Rangers 4-2. It was his 164th career game (100-45-19), which made him the fourth-fastest in league history to 100 wins behind Tom Johnson (138 games), Mike Keenan (152) and current Nashville color analyst Terry Crisp (158).