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Preds’ penalty kill shuts down Sharks

The Nashville Predators snapped a two-game losing streak when Colin Wilson scored his fourth goal of the season at 2:08 into overtime for the 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks, Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

San Jose came out strong outshooting the Predators 13-3 after the first period, but it was Nashville that dominated play in the second and third periods, despite the Predators being assessed 12 minutes in penalties. Nashville ended up out-shooting the Sharks 22-12 in the final two frames.

“We took a lot of penalties, and came out strong on the penalty kill. I think the guys really battled hard. [The Sharks] didn’t get good scoring chances,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said.

San Jose managed a mere four shots on goal during a total of six power plays spanning over seven minutes in the second period, 1:19 in the third, despite Nashville’s penalty kill being without Hal Gill.

Gill leads the Nashville defense for average shorthanded ice time per game at 3:38. The veteran defenseman, who is a penalty-kill specialist, was a healthy scratch. The Predators went with six defensemen, rather than seven, and Jonathon Blum played instead of Gill in an attempt to generate more offense from the blue line.

“Guys are stepping up,” defenseman Kevin Klein said about the absence of Gill on the penalty kill. “That’s what you like to see out of the young guys. I thought we did a great job getting in shot lanes and blocking shots. They show a lot of skill. To kill off that many [power plays] against these guys says something.”

“It isn’t added pressure,” Gaustad said when speaking about Gill’s absence.  “We know that we want to stop any power play, and we have been getting better on the penalty kill, and as a group. It is our job to kill it off. He is a big part of our team, and a big part of our PK. [Tonight], it was a group effort. It isn’t an individual effort on our team. We just needed to get the job done.”

Killing off penalties may be a team effort, but Gaustad, who played 4:20 shorthanded, impressed head coach Barry Trotz.

“We were (seven) minutes short in the second period. We were good. We could have gone the other way, but the penalty kill and Paul Gaustad was good. Gaustad was great on draws,” he said.

The forward was dynamite in the faceoff circle winning 76 percent of draws, going 16-of-21. For the season, Gaustad has a 60.9 percent faceoff success rate.

During the second period, Nashville forward Martin Erat was called for eight minutes in penalties, including a high-sticking double minor, as well as infractions for holding the stick and hooking. Minor penalties were also handed out to Nick Spaling and Colin Wilson. The Sharks, whose power play was ranked eighth in the NHL heading into Tuesday, even saw 41 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage.

In his last six games, Rinne has a 5-1-0 record, two shutouts, and a save percentage of .964. Rinne’s two shutouts are tied with Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Phoenix’s Mike Smith for the NHL lead. The Predators next play Thursday night when the Coyotes visit Bridgestone Arena for the first time since last May’s playoffs.

 
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