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Sharks' winning streak ends in shootout loss to Predators

The SportsXchange

SAN JOSE -- For the third game in a row, the San Jose Sharks reached a shootout after a scoreless overtime period.

After winning the first two to extend a season-opening winning streak to seven games, San Jose finally lost in the tiebreaking format Saturday.

Craig Smith scored on the backhand in the shootout, and goalie Pekka Rinne stopped three San Jose shooters as the Nashville Predators skated off with a 2-1 victory.

"Things aren't going to go your way every night," San Jose's Martin Havlat said. "You have to play to the last minute, the last second of every shift. At least we got a point tonight."

Havlat hooked Nashville's David Legwand 2:48 into sudden death, but the Sharks killed their fifth short-handed situation of the game. Over the Sharks' past 21 short-handed situations over five games, they've allowed only one shot.

Success on the penalty kill and Niemi's early consistency have been two of the highlights of San Jose's start, but the Sharks simply ran into a hot goalie Saturday.

"They have one of the best goalies in the league, and Niemi was awesome again tonight, (too)," Havlat said. "He's keeping us in a lot of games."

Niemi was perfect in the shootout in each of the previous two games, but Smith changed that on Saturday.

"It's a new challenge every time, and I need to focus each time. This time they were able to score," Niemi said. "You have to watch his speed, and I think maybe I got caught a little bit."

Meanwhile, the Predators played a simple and smart road game. They're getting used to this, of course, as Saturday was the sixth stop of a seven-game road trip, tying a franchise mark for the longest trek in club history.

Nashville snapped Joe Pavelski's seven-game point streak and kept his linemates -- Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau -- off of the score sheet, too.

"They do so much, it's tough -- big guys with puck possession, speed and skill," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said. "Pekka did a great job doing his part, and other than that, I think it was a collective effort."

Havlat tied the game 1-1 at 13:39 of the third period with a power-play goal. His backhand shot in close beat Rinne, who had turned away the first 23 shots he faced.

The Sharks (7-0-1) finally converted on their fifth power play of the game, a result of Nashville's bench minor for too many men on the ice.

The Predators (3-2-3) broke on top 59 seconds into the final period when Sergei Kostitsyn scored at even strength.

Nashville's Colin Wilson skated along the right boards in the Sharks end and drew San Jose's Pavelski and Brad Stuart his way before dishing a nifty back pass to an unmarked Kostitsyn on the right circle.

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle jumped out but was too late to deny the shot that beat Niemi. Kostitsyn's first goal of the season came on Nashville's 14th shot of the game.

The Sharks came closest to scoring in the second period when slow-starting Ryane Clowe struck the far post on an effort that slipped between the pads of Rinne. Havlat skated into the crease and began to raise his hands in celebration before realizing the puck had failed to cross the goal line. A pile-up ensued before Havlat or any Shark could knock it in at 9:43.

The teams skated to a scoreless first period with the Sharks holding a slim edge in shots, 8-6.

Rinne wound up with 26 saves in regulation and overtime, while Niemi had 23 saves.

San Jose finished 1-for-5 on the power play. Nashville went 0-for-4.

NOTES: Nashville was without leading scorer right wing Martin Erat (four points) after the right wing was unable to dress after taking a puck to his foot in practice on Friday. Right wing Brian McGrattan was a healthy scratch. ... Kostitsyn returned for the start of the second period after missing the final 7:32 of the first period after sustaining a facial cut when he got sandwiched by San Jose's Douglas Murray and Marleau. ... Defenseman Jason Demers made his season debut for San Jose. Matt Irwin sat for the first time in seven games. The rookie defenseman was joined by forward Tommy Wingels and defenseman Nick Petrecki as healthy scratches. ... The Sharks return to action Monday against the Ducks in Anaheim. ... Nashville, 3-2-1 on the road trip, plays the Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday before returning home to face the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. ... The Predators came into Saturday possessing the league's least potent offense, averaging 1.57 goals per game.
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