4/16 WCQF Game 3: SHARKS 3, nashville 1
Ah, playoff hockey in the Tank, oh how we missed you. The Sharks brought their game back to the basics in front of 17,496 of their loudest supporters last night, and by 60 minutes of grind it out, forecheck, backcheck, and body check laden hockey, they got the job done. Facing a Nashville offense that scored 9 goals in the first two games, the Predators were shut down by the Sharks D, only mustering one goal.
The night began on a very somber note, as the Sharks recognized a couple losses, one internal, and one very external. Moments of silence were held for both Warren Strelow (Sharks goaltending coach) and the victims and families of those affected by the massacre at Virginia Tech University. After about 15 seconds, the quietest period of time I have ever witnessed anywhere, let alone the San Jose Arena, the anthem was sung, and the game began.
From the opening faceoff, Ron Wilson clearly had a gameplan for his troops, and that was to hit. Hit early, hit hard, hit often. Despite some strong play early, the Predators were able to strike first, on a beautiful goal that saw two cross-ice passes, the latter ending on the stick of Ryan Suter (yes, Suter, as in nephew of former Sharks defenseman Gary Suter), who was able to tap it in for a 1-0 lead. The Predators had to fight off a pair of powerplays towards the end of the 1st, but held on to the slimmest of margins, and took it into the locker room after 1.
As hard as the Teal pressed in the 1st, they came out even harder, registering 18 shots in the 2nd frame. At 8:38 of the period, a seemingly harmless wrist shot by Craig Rivet deflected off the stick of Milan Michalek , who was waiting in front for the shot, and tipped it past Tomas Vokoun, tying the game at 1 (Rivet, Joe Thornton). The Sharks were unable to score on 6 power plays during the game, but at 12:18 of the period, they capitalized on a mistake by Paul Kariya. Kariya, who had seen his penalty expire 10 seconds earlier, decided to go to the bench and make a change, rather than jump into the play and help his teammates fend off the Sharks attack. With the even strength man behind the play, Christian Ehrhoff found Matt Carle behind the net, and Carle found Ryane Clowe  waiting in the slot, who picked his spot and wristed it past Vokoun, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead, a score that would stand after 40 minutes of play.
The Predators got a pair of chances with the man advantage in the 3rd, the first carried over from the end of the previous period, and the second came 6 minutes in. Both, however, were unsuccessful, and at 15:34, Bill Guerin wristed a shot at the net that was perfectly tipped by Captain Patrick Marleau , and sealed the deal for the Sharks (Guerin).
Having now seen playoff games in both Nashville and San Jose, it's hard to really determine the louder building, however, being a Sharks fan, I think I'd have to give the tiebreaker to the HP Pavilion (Compaq Center or San Jose Arena works too), just because I have to answer to more Sharks fans than Predator fans. Both buildings are very happy to have playoff hockey, and both are filled to the hilt with crazies, and that's all that really matters.
With Game 3 in the books, Wednesday will bring the 4th installment of this series (7:00 Pacific). Game 4 will see the return of Alexander Radulov, back after serving his one game suspension for a check from behind on Steve Bernier. Radulov was a spark plug in the 1+ games he played in Nashville, recording 3 goals, and should be a big part of the Predator attack once again. As crucial as Game 3 was, Game 4 is that much more important. While a Predators win will give them the SJ split, and send the series back to Nashville as a best of 3 with 2 games to be played in Tennessee, a Sharks win will give them a commanding 3 games to 1 lead, forcing Nashville to win 3 consecutive games or race for a good tee time on the course. Let's hope it's the second one, eh?
GO SHARKS (#17 [Hartnell] and #47 [Radulov], get ready for some serious booing action)