Sharks take bite out of Predators for 3rd straight win
SAN JOSE — Four skaters scored and goalie Martin Jones made 19 saves as the San Jose Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Wednesday.
But the health of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who absorbed an ugly hit to get forced from the game, was on the forefront of teammates’ minds afterward.
Vlasic was trying to play a puck off the end boards when Nashville center Ryan Johansen came crashing in, hitting Vlasic high with his right shoulder. Vlasic fell to the ice on all fours and needed help from a trainer to retire to the locker room just 1:05 into the third period.
“There’s a hit that doesn’t look very good to our side,” San Jose’s Joe Pavelski said. “You never want to see that. He’s just in a vulnerable spot.”
The San Jose captain, who along with Vlasic was coincidentally one of the hosts’ goal-scorers, took matters into his own hands 10 minutes later when he engaged Johansen in a fight. It was Pavelski’s fifth career fight — three of which have come in the regular season — and first since Oct. 26, 2014.
“It’s great,” Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said of Pavelski’s decision to stand up for Vlasic, who was unavailable afterward. “I think the whole team loved it.”
Johansen, the team’s top skilled centerman and hardly one to play dirty, said he wasn’t trying to hurt Vlasic.
“I hope he’s OK,” Johansen said. “I totally thought it was clean. I would never, ever hit someone in a bad position.”
Mikkel Boedker’s second goal of the season at 13:43 of the third period sealed the Sharks’ third straight victory and sixth in eight games. Rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan notched his first career point with the second assist.
San Jose (7-5-0) won for the third straight time while Nashville (5-5-2) fell to 1-3-1 in its past five games.
“We had opportunities to execute in the offensive zone and we didn’t capitalize,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who was frustrated his undisciplined team gave San Jose eight power plays. “Not a lot of opportunities for them, but the ones they did get they made the most of. We continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with the penalties.”
The Sharks received goals from Pavelski and Vlasic in the middle period to offset one from Nashville’s Roman Josi to take a 3-1 lead into the final period.
Pavelski applied one of his patented tips while skating through the slot on Dillon’s drive from the left point to beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne at 8:17 with his fourth goal of the season.
Joe Thornton provided the second assist on the goal to collect his 1,400th career point. Thornton ranks 20th on the NHL’s all-time list.
Josi cut the lead in half at 10:04 by taking Calle Jarnkrok’s won draw and backhanding his third goal of the season past Jones.
But the hosts answered at 13:50 on the power play following Filip Forsberg’s trip of Tomas Hertl.
Vlasic skated a few strides from the right boards to open a shooting lane and scored his first of the season when his drive caromed off the skate of Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban and past Rinne. The Sharks converted for the first time on their fourth power play.
The Sharks scored the only goal of a tight-checking first period in which they outshot the Predators 7-6.
The Sharks’ third line came through when Joonas Donskoi crashed the net from the weak side to tap Tim Heed’s pass over the goal line before he tumbled into the net. Donskoi’s third goal of the season came at 15:49.
When asked how the Sharks might have to adjust if Vlasic is sidelined, Dillon said, “He’s got an unbelievable stick, a great defender, moves the puck well and plays big minutes for us. ... We’re going to have to make some adjustments and collectively be better as a group. We’ll have to pay more attention to detail.”
NOTES: San Jose D Paul Martin (ankle) is close to a return after practicing with the team for a second straight day. He missed his 10th game on Wednesday. ... LW Barclay Goodrow, D Dylan DeMelo and LW Jannik Hansen were healthy scratches for San Jose, whose five-game homestand continues Saturday against Anaheim. ... Nashville C Nick Bonino (lower body) missed his seventh straight game but participated in the optional morning skate for the first time since getting injured Oct. 14. ... D Anthony Bitetto, D Yannick Weber and LW Pontus Aberg did not dress for Nashville, which next ventures to Anaheim on Friday for stop No. 2 on a four-game trip.