Kevin KleinHot off a win against the Dallas Stars, the Nashville Predators entered Saturday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks looking to make it three wins in a row. The Sharks, now 5-4-1 in their last ten, had the Predators on their heels to finish the game, peppering goaltender Carter Hutton with 20 shots in the third period. In true edge-of-your-seat action, the Predators were able to hold off the the onslaught by the Sharks to win by a score of 3-2.

The crowd of 16,243 was able to roar in excitement right out of the gates as the line of Matt Cullen, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith generated multiple scoring chances. The fans rose to their feet just three minutes and 45 seconds into the game as Rich Clune and Andrew Desjardins dropped the gloves. This bout seemed to energize both the crowd and the team, as the Predators continued rolling on the offensive, with Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi coming up big with saves multiple times. It wasn’t until 16:04 of the first that Victor Bartley (from Viktor Stalberg) shot a hard pass towards the net and Eric Nystrom tipped it past Niemi for his sixth goal of the season.

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”We know that we have to get back to the simple things and just shoot the puck”[/pullquote]

Momentum from their success in the first period continued to build as Nashville was able to kill off a Stalberg hooking penalty less than a minute into the second. The Predators were very active on the penalty, using their bodies and sticks to close passing lanes and block shots. Hutton stepped up multiple times with tremendous saves during the kill. Even though Nashville also dominated the second period, they only mustered four shots in the first 15 minutes of the second, compared to the Sharks’ nine during that time period. The Predators were finally able to capitalize on their dominating performance by converting on the power play after a rarely-called “closing hand on the puck” penalty on Brad Stuart. Craig Smith found Roman Josi in the slot who sniped a beautifully wristed shot past Niemi for his second of the season.

“We know that we have to get back to the simple things and just shoot the puck,” said Josi of his power play goal, “That’s what we have done the past couple of games, and it’s huge for us.”

Early in the third period, the fans were able to witness another fight as Kevin Klein and James Sheppard duked it out to the right of Carter Hutton. It seemed like a close battle, but our friends at ruled it a 10-9 decision in favor of Klein, who ended up with a bloody gash on his nose (see video below for our interview). On Klein’s play, head coach Barry Trotz stated, “The turning point is when Kevin Klein went out there and battled really hard, playing quite well with some of their top lines.”

Following another successful penalty kill with WIlson in the box for tripping, the Predators were unable to convert on a power play of their own with Logan Couture off the ice for hooking. Immediately following the end of the power play for Nashville, the Sharks finally found themselves on the board when Dan Boyle tipped in a shot between Hutton’s legs from Matt Irwin (and Patrick Marleau) at 7:28. Bridgestone Arena became raucous when Victor Bartley laid an absolutely phenomenal hit on Tommy Wingels with 4:52 remaining in the third.

“A lot of guys played hard tonight and sacrificed their bodies,” noted Bartley on how physical the entire game played out.

In what was an entertaining third period, the home crowd experience the ludicrous speed of Viktor Stalberg. Flying past Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, Stalberg snapped it past Niemi on a two-on-one break at 17:21 of the third. This is certainly what the Predators envisioned when they signed Stalberg as he now has three points in five games.

“It feels better and I’m getting more chances out there too,” Stalberg noted, “I think overall my game is a lot better.”

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]”We weathered the storm and held on for a big two points…”[/pullquote]

Even with a 3-1 lead, the Predators were forced to circle the wagons as San Jose turned their offensive opportunities up a notch, putting 20 shots on goal during the third. Carter Hutton stepped up to help his team survive and finished 36 of 38. The Sharks were able to net another goal from Marleau with 55.8 seconds remaining, but it just didn’t matter as Carter Hutton tracked the puck well with tremendous glove saves throughout the night.

“We don’t want to sit back on our heels and let them take it to us…They’ve got a lot of end-zone presence, but we weathered the storm and held on for a big two points,” Hutton on the pressure from San Jose late in the third.

Final score 3-2.

Non-hockey game notes:

  • The Rich Clune Show entertained the crowd during a TV timeout where he interviewed fellow players on Kevin Klein’s selection into “Nashville’s Most Beautiful People.” Eric Nystrom noted that he (Klein) is, “really fooling the people that choose this.”
  • The Nashville Predators also played their very entertaining holiday video eCard.

Below, we have video with Kevin Klein as well as post-game thoughts with Barry Trotz.