SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Paul Kariya’s second brilliant goal for Nashville forced overtime, and Christian Ehrhoff’s power-play score won it for San Jose. Tomas Vokoun was outstanding in the Predators’ net, and Joe Thornton put on another passing clinic for the Sharks.
Yet all that beauty wasn’t nearly as intriguing as the ugliest, most thrilling moment in a fight-filled game: San Jose enforcer Scott Parker’s attempt to scale the glass to fight Brendan Witt in the Sharks’ 3-2 victory over the Predators on Saturday.
The beauty and brutality of the NHL game both were on display during a rare matinee at the Shark Tank. While Kariya, Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo were their usual dynamic selves, Parker and Witt sent everybody home buzzing when they attempted to climb over the barrier dividing the benches during the second period.
Neither Parker nor Witt, making his Nashville debut after a deadline trade from Washington, managed to land any big punches. Both were ejected after teammates and coaches quickly pulled them down from a potentially scary conflict.
“A player like (Parker) shouldn’t be in the NHL anyway,” said Vokoun, who made 39 saves. “The penalty cost us more than them. We got an impact player thrown out. They lost a marginal player.”
But while the Predators decried Parker as a goon, the Sharks praised him for providing an emotional boost.
“It was kind of old-time hockey,” coach Ron Wilson said. “I’m not happy that we had to go to overtime to win, but we certainly deserved both points with the way we played physically.”
Mark Smith scored a power-play goal with 7:47 left in the third period, and Cheechoo also scored for the Sharks, who have won five straight home games— including the first two on a key six-game homestand.
But this one had a dark side: The teams combined for 116 minutes in penalties. Nashville’s Scott Nichol and Witt and San Jose’s Milan Michalek and Parker got game misconducts after a series of fights, including Nichol’s one-sided pounding of Michalek, a 21-year-old Czech rookie who’s “never had a fight in his life,” according to Wilson.
That’s what led to Parker’s attempts to fight Witt in the second period— and Witt’s refusal further angered Parker.
“Parker came over the glass, and your first reaction is one of disbelief,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “Witt turns around, and his first reaction is to swing back. I don’t like that trade-off. … Parker is a marginal player for San Jose, and Witt is really starting to do some good things for us.”
Kariya scored his first goal on the ensuing power play after Parker left with 24 minutes in penalties. Cheechoo tied it later in the second period with his 37th goal of the season on Thornton’s NHL-best 66th assist.
Kariya forced overtime by scoring his second goal of the game on a crafty backhand with 10.9 seconds left in regulation. But after David Legwand got a tripping penalty in overtime, Ehrhoff scored on a shot from outside the faceoff circle 2:56 into overtime—the only stoppable shot Vokoun missed all day.
“The team played great, and we had so many good chances,” Thornton said. “It was a really good example of where this team can be.”
Michalek and rookie Steve Bernier got misconducts late in the first period for simultaneous fights with Witt and Nichol. Bernier also got an instigator penalty and stayed in the game—but the Sharks were incensed by the Predators’ willingness to fight Michalek.
Between periods, the officials refused to tell a pool reporter why Michalek received a game misconduct when he didn’t even remove his gloves.
“It was an interesting debut,” Witt said. “It would have been nice to stay with the guys.”
The fights were the first for Bernier and Michalek in their NHL careers. … Parker was playing just his second game since missing 26 with a concussion. The Sharks’ enforcer has played just five games all season. … Vokoun checked Cheechoo to the ice when the San Jose forward got a partial breakaway midway through the third period.