The image of Joe Pavelski’s patented single-knee, fist-pumping celebration against a background of whipping rally towels is becoming a fixture of San Jose’s playoff run.
The Shark captain’s sixth goal of the playoffs was perhaps his most exhilarating, cracking open an even-keeled match against the Nashville Predators that ended in a 3-2 Sharks victory and 2-0 series lead.
With just 2:40 remaining in regulation, Pavelski snapped Matt Nieto’s rebound over a splayed-out Pekka Rinne, prompting his visceral celebration.
“It’s good knowing that we have (a two-game advantage), but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Coming into these playoffs, there was a lot of talk about our home record. We’ve come out, we’ve played hard and the fans have been great, lot of energy in the building.”
Though head coach Peter DeBoer dismissed the notion of his team’s dependence on power-play scores after Game 1, it was again special-teams superiority that set up San Jose’s victory.
Logan Couture punched a rebound past Rinne during a man-up chance near the end of the second period for his third goal of the series, and the defense successfully killed all three Predators penalty advantages.
Martin Jones locked down the Predators’ offense until the last six minutes of the game, when a Mattias Ekholm wrist-shot tied the score at 1-1. San Jose’s goalie out-dueled an outstanding Renne for the second consecutive game, posting 37 saves and a .949 save percentage.
“(Jones) was awesome, he really was. The couple of PK’s that we had he made some really good saves. He was definitely solid for us. We knew it was a game we were going to have to earn. They get one, and it happens. We just re-focus and start winning draws again and get back on the forecheck.”
Volume-wise, Nashville outshone San Jose in both attempted shots (39-25) and hits (46-26). The Sharks, however, managed to weather the disparities and configure a winning game-plan — one characterized by patience, crisp possessions and quality chances.
“We won, and in the playoffs you gotta win all kinds of different ways. In the second and third periods, I thought their desperation level was a little higher than ours, and rightfully so. You have a team that is facing going down two games, and no one wants to lose their first two games. The important thing is we won.”
The Sharks take their two-game lead into Nashville Tuesday with a chance to uphold their road-warrior reputation and cancel a return trip for the Predators.