PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinals; tied 1-1.
Playing the league’s best home team didn’t faze the San Jose Sharks in the first two games of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Now, San Jose looks to take a 2-1 lead over the Nashville Predators when the series shifts to HP Pavilion for Games 3 and 4.
Nashville had the best regular-season home record in the league at 32-8-1, and then beat San Jose 4-3 in Game 1 of this series for its sixth straight win over the Sharks at Gaylord Entertainment Center.
The Predators scored four power-play goals in the victory, but were unable to beat Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala in a 3-0 loss in Game 2 on Sunday. It was the first time Nashville was shut out on home ice this season.
Nashville was whistled for five penalties in the first period and a total of 19 minor penalties were called between both teams.
“There have been a ton of penalties called, so special teams is going to dictate a lot of games,” Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren said Monday when the Sharks returned to their practice rink. “Whoever has good special teams can go far in the playoffs, and I think we have good special teams play when we want to.”
Toskala withstood all nine Nashville power plays in Game 2, just two days after the Predators went 4-for-7 with the man advantage.
“The win is all that matters,” said Toskala. “The shutout is nice for me, but it is not the main goal.”
Cheechoo, whose 56 goals led the league during the regular season, recorded his first point of the playoffs when he beat Predators goalie Chris Mason at 5:37.
Marleau followed with his first point of the series when he scored at 16:31, and Smith tallied his second goal in two games a minute later.
“Vesa played phenomenal,” Smith said. “You saw it at the end there, a couple power-play game savers, game breakers. The kid’s been doing it all season for us. We’ll just let him sit in his corner and do what he’s got to do to get ready for these games.”
Mason, whose seven-game winning streak was snapped in the loss, made 34 saves for the Predators. Nashville was outshot 37-25 and leading scorer Paul Kariya was held without a shot for the first time in 23 games.
Kariya had four assists in the series opener.
The Sharks, who went 11-2-2 in their last 15 home games during the regular season, won both meetings at HP Pavilion against the Predators this season. San Jose has won four in a row there in this series since a 4-2 loss on Dec. 7, 2002.
“It’s going to be a battle to win any games in there,” Nashville’s Adam Hall said. “You’ve got the talent. We have work ethic. We have all the pieces in here. It’s a matter of us putting it all together.”
Game 4 is Thursday night.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Predators - 106 points; 4th seed. Sharks - 99 points; 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Four with one goal; Kariya, 4 assists and 4 points; Brendan Witt, 8 PIM. Sharks - Smith, 2 goals; Cheechoo and Tom Preissing, 2 assists; Cheechoo, 3 points; Ville Nieminen, 18 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 25.0 percent (4 for 16). Penalty killing: 75.0 percent (12 for 16). Sharks - Power play: 25.0 percent (4 for 16). Penalty killing: 75.0 percent (12 for 16).