The San Jose Sharks did not start their game well against the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, but they finished it well.
The Sharks got on the board first when a Jason Demers pass was shot by Dany Heatley off the leg of Ryane Clowe 8:17 into the game.
However, Nashville opened with seven of the first eight shots of the game and had 12 through the first 14:22, culminating in their equaliser when Joel Ward went virtually uncontested to the net on a power play and put in his own rebound off Ian White.
Nashville came in with the third-best penalty kill in the league, and the Sharks were struggling (1-for-12) on the power play with Dan Boyle out. But just over four minutes into the second, Justin Braun gave the Sharks the lead again with a shot from the point on the power play through a Logan Couture screen; Heatley and Clowe got the assists.
However, Nashville tied the game again under two minutes later on their next power play, with uncovered captain Shea Weber putting home a cross-ice feed from David Legwand. It gave the third-worst power play in the league two goals in under four minutes with the man-advantage (three Sharks penalties).
It also gave two goals in just over 26 minutes to an offense that was better than only two teams, against the ninth-best team in goals against. With scorers fetching the most money in the league, offence is the one deficiency that Nashville always seems to have, making it nearly impossible for them to win new fans or playoff games against teams who then match their intensity (see provided link for more).
The Sharks defense was doing just that. Both teams blocked 20 shots, and the Sharks actually out-hit the Predators 23-20. And while they had two more giveaways (17-15), San Jose had 17 takeaways to just three for Nashville. They dominated the faceoff circle 41-23.
That explains why they registered 27 of the last 40 shots, including a 13-4 edge in the third period. But they could not break through Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
With Dallas a mere game-and-a-half back in the standings, every point matters. With the league rule changes no longer allowing shootout victories to count for tiebreakers, a win in overtime could make the difference at the end of the season.
Finally, with under two minutes to go in overtime, Ian White blocked a shot that came clear to Patrick Marleau, who raced up the right wing boards with White on a two-on-one. Ryan Suter tried going stride-for-stride with Marleau, but he could do no more than prevent the Sharks leading goal scorer from having a clear passing lane to White or from moving toward centre ice.
Marleau elected to go for a quick shot that deflected off Suter's stick and over Rinne's shoulder for the game winner.
Suter responded by slashing Marleau, but that was as futile as his hustle against the speedy veteran. Just like the game that sent Nashville into the tailspin, Patty had won this one on a dramatic overtime goal, giving the Sharks a two-game lead in the Pacific Division once again.