After winning Game 6 in overtime, many believed the Nashville Predators were primed to win Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round Series in San Jose but poor puck management (21 giveaways), poor penalty killing (two power play goals against) and lack of shots on goal (20) is a recipe for losing, which is exactly what happened to the Predators in Game 7.
Nashville Predators vs San Jose Sharks
San Jose forward Logan Couture scored a goal and added two assists for a three point night and goaltender Martin Jones stopped 20 shots to lead the Sharks to a 5-0 win over Nashville. San Jose wins the Western Conference Second Round Series 4-3 and advances to the Western Conference Final versus the St. Louis Blues. It is the fourth trip to the WCF (also in 2004, 2010, 2011) for San Jose.
“We’ve been saying it all year, we’re just deep,” said Joe Thornton after the contest. “We have a deep team. We roll four lines. We roll six (defensemen). We have so much trust with each other that whoever goes over the boards, we have confidence they will do that job.”
Joe Pavelski opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the playoffs while on the power play 9:02 into the first period. The Sharks exhibited textbook passing in the Predators zone with all five Sharks handling the puck. Couture started the play at the left point. He passed the puck along the blue line to Brent Burns at the right point. Burns sent it along the right half-wall to Joe Thornton, who found Patrick Marleau positioned on the goal line to the right of Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne. Thornton put the pass onto Marleau’s stick and he quickly moved it to Pavelski in the low slot. Pavelski’s shot beat Rinne between the netminder’s body and arm giving San Jose a 1-0 lead.
Joel Ward put the Sharks ahead 2-0 at 16:51 of the first period after teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic sent the puck off the glass and out of San Jose’s defensive zone. Nashville defenseman Roman Josi played the puck just outside of his blue line but Ward reached out and poked it off Josi’s stick and went in alone on Rinne. He faked a forehand shot, went backhand, then returned to his forehand and slid the disc through Rinne’s pads.
Couture scored the only goal of the second period and it came just 36 seconds into the period. Nashville defenseman Shea Weber tried to play the puck off the left half-wall in his zone but it bounced over his stick and Couture swooped in and took control of the disc. He moved in on Rinne and unleashed a wrist shot that went through the five-hole to increase San Jose’s lead to 3-0.
Apparently, Sharks veteran centerman Joe Thornton liked what he saw so much from Couture that he decided to emulate him by scoring a power play goal 32 seconds into the third period to make it a 4-0 game. The Sharks broke out of their zone on a four on one after Couture used a poke-check to force the puck off of a Nashville forward’s sticks. Couture recovered the loose puck and moved it to a breaking Thornton on the left wing. Thornton carried the puck into the Nashville zone. Couture jumped into the rush and received a pass back from Thornton in the middle of the ice. Couture reeled off a high wrist shot that was stopped by Rinne but the puck landed at the goaltender’s feet and Thornton, who drove to the crease, put a backhand shot between Rinne’s feet.
Marleau closed out the scoring for the Sharks 3:54 into the final period with his fourth of the postseason. Vlasic took a hit to make a play when he sent the puck along the right wing boards in his defensive zone. Marleau skated into the puck in the neutral zone and entered the Predators zone on a two on one with Couture. Marleau, on the right side of the ice passed to Couture, who was on the left side. Couture held the disc and returned the pass to Marleau in tight to Rinne’s crease then beat the goaltender over the glove giving San Jose a 5-0 lead.
After the Marleau goal, an understandably frustrated and angry Rinne broke his stick on a goal post, threw it at the glass behind his net, then skated to the Nashville bench. He was replaced by backup puck stopper Carter Hutton.
San Jose’s Logan Couture leads the NHL with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Couture set a Sharks record for points in a single series with 11 on six goals and five assists vs Nashville.
With his goal in Game 7, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski is tied for the Stanley Cup playoff goal scoring lead with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov.
Martin Jones is the fourth goaltender in San Jose Sharks history to post a playoff shutout and the first to do it in Game 7.
The Sharks improved to 8-0 in eight all-time playoff home games versus the Predators (4-0 this year).
This was the 10th Game 7 in San Jose Sharks history and fourth on home ice (all since 2008).
The contest was the second Game 7 in Nashville Predators history after defeating Anaheim in the First Round.
It was the fifth career Game 7 appearances for Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Joel Ward.
San Jose’s Joel Ward has scored three goals in five Game 7s.
Going into this game, Predators coach Peter Laviolette had won an NHL-record five consecutive Game 7s dating back to 2006.
The home team won all seven games of the series. It is the fourth such instance in the last 20 years.
Stat of the Night:
A California-based team has advanced to a Western Conference Final for the seventh consecutive season:
2010-2011 San Jose
2012-2014 Los Angeles
2016 San Jose
Friday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
Game 1- Eastern Conference Final- Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.