Highlights: Short-handed Sharks can't complete comeback
Antti Niemi, who was pulled in two of his last three starts, fell to 22-9-6 with 25 saves. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Playing their third road game in four nights, and with an injury-riddled lineup, the Sharks lost to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, 3-2.
San Jose, which lost Tommy Wingels (upper body) and Tyler Kennedy (flu) before the three-game road trip began, and Logan Couture to a hand injury on Monday, never looked particularly competitive in a building in which they’ve lately struggled. The Sharks dropped both of their visits to the Music City this season, and are 0-3-1 there in their last four.
Nashville, which entered on a three-game losing streak and in last place in the Central Division, scored twice in the second period to break a 1-1 tie.
First, just 27 seconds after his delay of game penalty led to Joe Pavelski’s goal, Mattias Ekholm managed to backhand a puck on net from below the faceoff dot with Justin Braun draped all over him. The puck beat Antti Niemi to the far side to give the Predators the lead back at 7:16 of the middle frame on an attempt that Niemi should have eaten up.
A controversial goal that arguably should have been disallowed a little more than four minutes later gave Nashville a two-goal cushion. Roman Josi’s wrist shot sailed into the twine, but Niemi’s right leg was pinned underneath Colin Wilson, who ran into the Sharks’ goaltender unprovoked at 11:30.
The Sharks failed to give much of a third period push until pulling Niemi with less than two minutes to go. Patrick Marleau’s redirection of a Matt Nieto pass brought the Sharks to within a goal at 18:38, but that’s how it would end.
Nashville opened the scoring three and a half minutes into the second. Shea Weber fired the puck into the corner, and several Sharks were caught turning up the ice, including Jason Demers and Joe Thornton. David Legwand gathered it in and flicked it over Niemi’s shoulder.
San Jose responded on Ekholm’s delay of game, when Pavelski got his stick on a one-time blast from Dan Boyle to beat Marek Mazanec at 6:49.
Nashville recorded the first seven shots of the game, with San Jose finally getting one towards the net from Eriah Hayes at 6:28 of the first.
Nashville makes its only visit to SAP Center on April 5.
The Sharks were 1-for-4 on the power play, and had to kill off only one Predators power play, after not being shorthanded even once in Sunday’s win in Chicago.
In their last eight games, the Sharks are 7-for-25 on the power play (28.0 percent).
The Sharks have been shorthanded just 113 times, fewest in the league.
Niemi, who was pulled in two of his last three starts, fell to 22-9-6 with 25 saves. Alex Stalock, who won in Chicago on Sunday, has yet to make back-to-back starts.
Mazanec turned away 26 of 28 to improve to 8-8-3.
Nashville’s Pekka Rinne remains out with a hip injury.
Couture missed his first game of the season, and is due to have surgery on his hand on Wednesday morning. He’ll be out three-to-four weeks.
Thornton’s eight-game point streak (12 assists) came to an end.
Ehholm, a fourth round draft pick in 2009, scored his first career NHL goal in his 32nd game.
The Sharks host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and Boston Bruins on Saturday. Another three-game road trip begins on Jan. 14 in Washington, and continues on to Florida and Tampa Bay.