Sports Hockey

NHL Playoffs

Predators outlast Sharks to tie series in triple OT

By Robert Tychkowski

Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher, top centre, is mobbed by teammates after scoring the winning goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third overtime period in Game 4 of their playoff series in Nashville, Tenn., on May 6, 2016. The Predators won 4-3 in triple overtime to even the series 2-2. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Nashville Predators forward Mike Fisher, top centre, is mobbed by teammates after scoring the winning goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third overtime period in Game 4 of their playoff series in Nashville, Tenn., on May 6, 2016. The Predators won 4-3 in triple overtime to even the series 2-2. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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NASHVILLE - 

The Sharks can smell blood in the water.

Unfortunately for them, it’s their own.

After losing Game 3 and most of their momentum Tuesday night in Nashville, the San Jose Sharks are in real danger of letting a series they once led 2-0 get away from them for good.

The Nashville Predators cut their wounds even deeper in a six-period marathon Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, posting a crucial 4-3 victory to even the series at 2-2.

A Predators team that has never been past the second round in franchise history was minutes away from another almost certain early exit, but James Neal tied it 3-3 with 4:21 left in regulation and Mike Fisher won it at 1:03 a.m. local time, 11:12 into the the third extra period.

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“It was one of those games that could have gone either way, the guys just battled hard,” said Fisher, adding the players were doing everything they could to find strength as the war of attrition wore on. “We were just doing all we could do to find a way. It was a great hockey game.

“We did what we wanted to do at home because it only gets harder from here.”

It’s hard to imagine how it can after an epic night of hockey like this one.

“That’s a huge win for us,” grinned Predators defenceman Mattias Ekholm. “We knew that if we lost this game we’d be down 3-1 and that’s a tough break. Now at 2-2 it’s really open again.

“And the way we won gives us an extra boost. If we won 5-1 it would have been nice, but this was extra nice.”

And the Predators, who started slowly but have been the better team through most of this series, have turned it into a best of three they feel very good about.

Did Nashville, which led 2-1 after 20 minutes on goals from Fisher and Colin Wilson, figure something out about the Sharks in getting this series back to even?

Not really. They say they just dug in and refused to accept anything but two wins at home.

“We knew it was a must win in Game 3 and we had to treat this one with the same attitude,” said Fisher. “We all know how important this game was. We were facing elimination twice (in round one) and got a couple of big wins. You have to treat it and be desperate like that, same type of scenario.”

The Sharks, meanwhile, are trying their hardest not to be dejected about a terribly dejecting loss.

“I liked our game tonight,” said head coach Pete DeBoer. “We were good, we had plenty of chances to win the game. It’s 2-2. It’s two good teams going at it. We had multiple quality chances to end the game.”

The Sharks had more five-star looks in overtime than any team needs, but will be having nightmares about Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne for a long time. Rinne stopped 44 of 47 shots in the win, saving a couple while San Jose already had its sticks in the air celebrating.

“I didn’t care if we had to play all night,” said Rinne. “You just don’t want to lose. You want to give yourself and your team a chance to win.”

“This is a great feeling. It’s 2-2 now. It shows a lot of character when you pull out a win like this.”

The Sharks thought they’d won it in the first OT, but after a pair of reviews it was ruled that Joe Pavelski ran some goaltender interference before putting one in at 7:34.

Replays showed Shea Weber tripped Pavelski on the way into Rinne.

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“They said he made incidental contact with the goalie and that’s why they waved it off,” said DeBoer.

“I don’t understand. I guess if incidental contact is you’re crosschecked from behind while you’re in the air ... that rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different tonight?”

Rinne admits holding his breath during the long delay.

“Nervous,” he said. “Anytime they’re going upstairs and looking it over it makes you nervous. I felt pretty comfortable it was not going to be a goal. We missed a bullet there.”

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