The Nashville Predators picked up their second straight win on Tuesday, fighting their way to a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. While it had a very different feel from Saturday night’s 6-4 win over the Devils, the two points the Preds picked up were just as important as they attempt to climb out of the hole dug themselves in back in November.

“It was a playoff game out there, it had that feel to it,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the game. “We’re trying to fight our way up, [the Sharks} are coming from games where they wish they were having more success. So when that happens inside of a room, things get ratcheted up in intensity. That’s the way it felt on the ice.”

With both teams fighting their way up the standings, each side tried to get an edge, especially after the whistle. There were a total of 72 penalty minutes, including a couple of misconduct penalties to Evander Kane and Austin Watson after things heated up considerably at the end of the 2nd period.

The game itself was a defensive struggle early, with the Preds finally breaking through in the 3rd period.

“There wasn’t a lot of room. It was hard fought out there but not an up and down game that had a lot of chances, especially early on. I was really happy with the way we stuck to it and actually back to it in the 3rd period, because I thought they took it to us a little bit in the 2nd.”

With the playoffs in mind, even in December, both teams were ready to prove they deserved a win. The margins were narrow, as Laviolette mentioned, with not a lot of room to move in each zone and plenty of bodies taking up space in the neutral zone. Eventually, with both sides getting a little too close for comfort, things escalated in the 2nd period.

Preds, Sharks boil over in 2nd period

This one started off quite differently from last Saturday’s matchup with New Jersey. Whereas on Saturday, the Preds and Devils scored four goals in roughly the first four minutes, on Tuesday the Preds and Sharks were scoreless through 20 minutes.

Both Juuse Saros and Martin Jones made some nice saves to prevent any scoring, with Jones making some very impressive stops in the San Jose end. Both Mikael Granlund (who returned to the lineup after a two game absence due to injury) and Matt Duchene had great chances to put the Preds up a goal, but Jones stood strong.

The first 10 minutes of the 2nd period were extremely uneventful.

There was about a seven minute stretch with no stoppage in the play and I think there was maybe one or two shot attempts. Boring hockey, at its finest.

But then, out of nowhere, things got out of hand. Following several questionable calls at both ends, Roman Josi was called for a cross check that he didn’t agree with. After hurling a four letter word at the ref, the ref hurled one back at him, which was caught on a hot mic in the arena.

Then all hell broke loose. Dan Hamhuis was called for “roughing” Evander Kane, then Austin Watson came to Hamhuis’ defense. Both Watson and Kane were called for misconducts.

The Preds finally broke through in the 3rd period. Nick Bonino took a nice pass from Mikael Granlund and put home his 12th goal of the year. Then later, Ryan Johansen scored to make it 2-0. The Sharks challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the play was upheld

While the Sharks did score with about two minutes left in the game, Calle Jarnkrok iced the game with an empty netter. His 11th goal of the year made it 3-1 Preds, securing the two points for the home team.

Juuse Saros wins duel with Martin Jones

One key ingredient to a defensive-minded, playoff-like atmosphere is great goaltending play, and both the Preds and Sharks had plenty. Early on Martin Jones denied the Preds on numerous high danger attempts in the 1st period. Then in the 2nd and 3rd periods, Juuse Saros took center stage, stopping the Sharks on a couple breakaways and even a shorthanded penalty shot on Barclay Goodrow.

In the end, Juuse Saros was the better goalie, stopping 24 shots and preserving the win for the Preds.

“Yeah, Juuse was great,” Roman Josi said after the game. “In the 3rd even, when they had a penalty shot, and I think two other breakaways. He was great all game, when they had some huge chances and he made the saves.”

While Juuse Saros did have to make some crucial saves, including the penalty shot, overall he said he liked the defense the Preds played in front of him.

“Yeah I think we had a really good effort today. The defense was good. We battled really hard, so it was fun to play behind them.”

Juuse also mentioned the importance of getting another two points as the Preds look to climb back into the Central race.

“We’re still on the way, but I feel like if we keep playing like this today, we should be fine.”

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —


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