4/13 WCQF Game 2: NASHVILLE 5, sharks 2
Ok, so it wasn't a two game sweep in their house, but we got one, that's a good start. Game 2 of this series went down not quite as smooth for Sharks fans, as it wasn't a win, and it wasn't overtime. The extra blow of losing another guy doesn't help, as this time a Shark went down with an absolute no doubter kind of shot, getting drilled between the numbers while standing on the boards, an absolute hockey no-no. The one thing to remember, sports fans, is that this is but one game, one loss, one step on a long road to the end of the cliff.
Unlike Game 1, the Sharks played much less physically, and, in many instances, were just plain outmuscled by the smaller Predator squad. Rather than play the slow, deliberately paced game the Teal usually roll out, they tried to skate too much with the Preds (that's how the locals call 'em, still not sure what a Pred is though), and it cost them big time.
Craig Rivet opened the scoring for the Sharks,  when he took a pass from Patrick Marleau on a play that looked a bit similar to Patrick Rissmiller's deciding goal in Game 1, flipping the puck over the outstretched Tomas Vokoun (Marleau, Matt Carle). Alexander Radulov tied the game at 1 just a couple minutes later on a very soft play by the Sharks defense. Vern Fiddler, beating Marc-Edouard Vlasic down the left wing, pushed the puck into the slot where, after sitting there for a moment, was snatched up by Radulov and deposited past Evgeni Nabokov. Peter Forsberg got on the board towards the end of the period, as he picked up a rebound off the back of the boards, and slipped it past the back of Nabokov, giving Nashville the 2-1 lead.
Midway through the 2nd, the Sharks lost another forward to a questionable hit, as this time Radulov left his feet to deliver an elbow/shoulder to the middle of the numbers on Steve Bernier's back as he was standing, facing the boards, knocking Bernier down, and possibly out for the remainder of the series (Bernier was seen skating on Sunday 4/15, but at this time, his availability for Game 3 is unknown). The Sharks were not able to convert, however, and towards the end of the penalty, J.P. Dumont rushed the puck up the ice, and wristed one past Nabokov, making the score 3-1. Later in the period, the Predators got a break when they dodged a roughing infraction, giving them a 5-on-3 chance rather than a 4-on-3. On the ensuing 2-man advantage, Dumont struck again, on a perfect passing scheme by the Predators.
Ryane Clowe brought the Sharks within two midway through the 3rd period  when he gobbled up a rebound and snuck a snapshot upstairs on Vokoun (Jonathan Cheechoo, Christian Ehrhoff), however, that was the closest the Sharks would get. A Forsberg empty netter and fights by Clowe, Mike Grier, and Scott Hannan closed up the game, which turned out to be much more disappointing than it looked when Rivet drew first blood way back in the 1st period. Nabokov made 17 saves in the losing effort.
Cheechoo returned for the Sharks, despite not looking 100%, and should play in Game 3, getting an extra couple days to rest his knee. The return of Bernier is still unknown, but we'll know soon enough. Radulov was suspended by the NHL 1 game for his hit on Bernier, and will return for Game 4.
For Games 3 and 4, we shift to San Jose, the home of the Sharks, and one very happy blogger (me). Game 3 will take place on Monday, the 16th (7:00 pacific). With the series tied at 1, punishment carried out by the league on a dirty hit in an attempt to stem further hits, and a bit of aggression out of the way in the form of some old time hockey fighting at the conclusion of Game 2, the stage is set for another classic between two of the Western Conference's finest. If you have the ability to obtain a ticket to the event taking place at 525 W. Santa Clara St. tomorrow night at, oh say, 7 o clock sharp, stop on by, wear your finest teal, scream your head off, and enjoy some hatred fueled hockey. I know 17,495 other people that'll do the same right beside you.
GO SHARKS (Get Well Bernier)