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Predators grab lifeline in Shark waters

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – Dan Ellis was the last player to filter into the visiting dressing room. He couldn't be blamed for taking his sweet time to arrive, given that he just survived facing a shooting gallery to the tune of 57 shots – franchise records for both teams Tuesday night.

Asked if he was off in another room getting an IV, Ellis laughed it off and added, "No, actually I feel pretty good."

That's what stealing two points can do for you.

The Nashville Predators needed a victory in the worst way. They were winless halfway through the longest trip of the season, and the prospects of earning their first points since Nov. 1 didn't look so hot against the San Jose Sharks after 20 minutes when they were outshot 21-6 and after 40 when they were outshot 43-17.

"That first period was an absolute disaster," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

The shots, the opponent's physical domination, the power plays, almost everything was one-sided. But not the scoreboard. The Predators trailed 2-1 going into the third period, and that was the hope they had, needing just one goal and somehow they might be able to pull something out of a game in a building in which the home team had not lost this season.

"It's those exact kinds of games that get you out of ugly losing streaks," Ellis said. "For some reason things change and momentum shifts. A lot of times when you get out of a losing streak it's because of a game you shouldn't have won in the first place."

Ryan Suter's doorstep putback at 13:33 tied the game 3-3, and an equally unlikely goal-scorer – Ville Koistinen – found the back of the net 2:28 into overtime. Both Suter and Koistinen had exactly one goal before Tuesday.

"I absolutely love we won a game we didn't deserve to win," Trotz said.

Truth be told, as good as Ellis was at one end, Brian Boucher struggled at the other. The backup goalie, playing a third straight game for injured starter Evgeni Nabokov, let in two softies and probably shouldn't have surrendered the last one either.

The Sharks led 2-0 when Boucher mishandled a soft dump-on on goal, left a juicy rebound, then couldn't close the five-hole fast enough before Jason Arnott tapped the puck between his legs late in the second. It was all the life Nashville needed.

"We were really fortunate to be in that game thanks to Danny Ellis," defenseman Shea Weber said. "That's going to help us build character. We hung around and hung around against a good team. It's going to force us to get better."

"Losing is contagious just as much as winning is contagious," added Ellis, with a career-high 54 saves. "When you can turn something around like tonight, against a rival that is arguably the top team in the league that's beaten us consecutively for a long time and get a win like that in their building, that's a huge momentum builder and confidence builder for this group."

Maybe this will be the night the Predators point to if their season turns around. The franchise is getting to be experts at this. Whether it is ownership change, the threat of moving, injuries or a key defection by a potential future star, the Predators always have rebounded.

Without a lot of star power or depth, Nashville has made the playoffs each of the last four seasons. There, the Predators have had the unfortunate luck of facing Detroit and San Jose twice each. The Red Wings and Sharks have been bad matchups for Nashville, which is 0-10 on the road in the postseason.

The way this trip started, combined with what immediately is ahead on the schedule, it was starting to look like the Predators would dig a hole they could not escape. And that still might be the case. Nashville is idle for two nights before finishing the trip with games on back-to-back nights, Friday and Saturday, in Anaheim and Los Angeles.

The 13-night trip ends with a single home game next week against these same trigger-happy Sharks, then it's right back out on the road for games in the East against Tampa Bay and Carolina. In all, it's more than 9,000 air miles in the month of November for the Preds.

Ellis sees Tuesday night's result as a microcosm of how a team can improve.

"We slipped into a bad little rut there for a while, and those types of things are draining mentally and they're draining physically," he said. "When you're working hard and little errors result in goals all the time, that's difficult."

Weber suggests it's the personalities in the room that will make a difference.

"I think it's the group of guys we have in here. Everybody is in it for each other and nobody is selfish," he said. "It's a total unit, almost like a family."