Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tootoo's blocked shot kick-starts Preds rout of San Jose

The Nashville Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks by a 6-2 score on Saturday night in front of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena. It was Nashville's third victory in their past four games, and it is their ninth home victory in the past 11 home games.

Nashville took a 1-0 lead just 2:03 into the first period. Jordin Tootoo blocked a shot from San Jose's Colin White from the point, and took the puck down the ice into the San Jose zone. Tootoo was able to draw both San Jose defenders over to him, and then fed the puck to Colin Wilson for the goal.

"One area where we have to be a lot better is getting out to the points and blocking shots. Fortunately, we got a good bounce there. It went off of me and (Wilson) drove to the net hard," Tootoo said.

Shea Weber gave the Predators a 2-0 lead just 1:20 later when he joined the odd-man rush with Sergei Kostitysn and Martin Erat. Weber showed tremendous speed on the play, and was able to convert on a beautiful feed from Erat. Just like that, the Predators had two goals on their first two shots of the game.

"Our starts have got to be better. The last couple of games, we haven't been that great in the first five minutes. Tonight, we just wanted to stick to the basics and out-work them, and that's what we did," Tootoo said.

Patrick Marleau responded for the Sharks at 10:58 of the first period when he was able to fire a wrist shot through traffic and into the net. Five minutes later, however, Kevin Klein would re-establish the two-goal lead for the Predators when he beat Antii Niemi with a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle. That would be the end of the night for Niemi. Thomas Greiss was brought in to relieve Niemi after Klein's goal.

At the start of the second period, it looked like the Sharks might be on the comeback trail. Joe Pavelski scored just 23 seconds into the period to bring San Jose within one goal once again. Nashville would respond again, however, when Weber fired a bomb past Greiss for a power play goal to increase the lead to 4-2.

In the third period, San Jose out-shot the Predators by a 16-3 margin. However, Nashville would score two goals on their three shots while the Sharks weren't able to score in the final frame. Erat added an empty-net goal to make it 5-2, and Nick Spaling scored from the slot to make it 6-2 with 42 seconds remaining in the game. The Predators ran out the clock and got a good bounce-back victory.

With another home victory, the Predators have not lost in regulation on home ice since January 5th against the Dallas Stars. The home ice advantage that seemed to be missing at the beginning of the year has returned.

"Mentally, for teams that come in here, they know that it's a little strenuous. Obviously, it's a good thing for us. We can't worry about the past. We've got to move ahead here one game at a time, and we need points every night," Tootoo said.

Saturday night's crowd was the 17th sellout crowd of the 2011-2012 season for the Predators, which is already one more sellout than Nashville had in the 2010-2011 regular season. The Predators are on pace to break their regular season sellout record of 20 games, which was set in the 1999-2000 season.

"It's been unbelievable. Our fan base and the support around the city has just been mind-blowing. For us players, we really appreciate their support. It's loud out there, which creates energy. In some games when things aren't going our way, they raise the intensity a little bit. It's great for us to feed off of," Tootoo said.

Nashville will host the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. The trading deadline is also on Monday, so it will be interesting to see if the Predators make any moves between now and then.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Jordin Tootoo(NSH)
3. Patrick Marleau(SJS)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Patrick Marleau(SJS)
3. Colin Wilson(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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