The San Jose Sharks are off to the Western Conference Final.
The Nashville Predators are left to reflect on a run into the second round of the playoffs that provided numerous magical moments — think back to their (controversial) triple overtime classic earlier in this series and seven-game series win over the Anaheim Ducks — but ended in utter misery.
For the second time in as many nights, a deciding seventh game in the West turned into a blowout.
On Thursday, the Sharks used their deadly power play to open the scoring and they continued to pile on from there. They crushed the Predators 5-0 in Game 7, and will now play the St. Louis Blues in the conference final.
In their biggest game of the season, the Predators couldn’t do anything right. It started with their top defensemen, Shea Weber and Roman Josi, who both had a night to forget. They were on the ice for every San Jose goal.
Pekka Rinne was pulled, mercifully, in the third period after allowing five goals on 26 shots. Both goals he allowed in the third period — from Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau — came off odd-man rushes.
As he left the crease, giving way to Carter Hutton, Rinne smashed his stick against the post, breaking it on the second try and chucking it into the corner in anger.
The players in front of Rinne had no answer for a relentless Sharks team in the finale.
It went from bad to worse for the Nashville Predators, in particular for defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi, against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7.
The video above shows Weber’s giveaway leading directly to Logan Couture‘s goal only 36 seconds into the second period, making it 3-0 San Jose.
Weber also took a penalty for interference in the first period, and was caught awkwardly dropping to the ice to try to block Joe Pavelski‘s shot on San Jose’s opening goal.
It wasn’t only Weber who was struggling for Nashville. Josi, his defensive partner, was guilty of a turnover in the neutral zone leading to a Joel Ward breakaway. Ward then slid the puck through the legs of Pekka Rinne, giving the Sharks a two-goal lead in the first period.
Of the teams remaining in these Stanley Cup playoffs, the San Jose Sharks have the best power play, operating at 28.2 per cent heading into Thursday’s Game 7 with the Nashville Predators.
Given the opportunity from a Viktor Arvidsson delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass, the Sharks used that power play to give them the lead just before the midway point of the first period, as Joe Pavelski scored his ninth goal of the post-season.
The Predators, after another emotional overtime winner to extend the series, were fortunate to escape the first period down only two goals. Joel Ward also scored for San Jose, which outshot Nashville 17-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
Just a day after a disastrous Game 7 home loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars began work for the 2016-17 season.
The Stars signed 2015 first-round pick and forward Denis Gurianov to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning next season. The deal was announced Thursday.
The Stars took Gurianov, 18, with the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft. He spent this season with Lada Togliatti in the KHL, appearing in 47 games with five points.
The Stars’ selection of Gurianov may have seemed like a surprise at the time, though Dallas management and hockey staff apparently had him ranked quite high in last year’s draft.
“There is a risk-reward involved,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News last summer. “When I talk to my staff, I want the best asset available, and right from the start they said he was a top three to five pick.”
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks clash in a decisive Game 7 at SAP Center. The winner advances to the Western Conference Final, where they will play the St. Louis Blues. You can catch tonight’s game on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
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Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
The Sharks have rediscovered home-ice advantage
Nieto’s injury could allow Wingels to return for Sharks
This series ‘should come down to Game 7,’ says Sharks coach after Game 6 loss