SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Tomas Hertl scored in the first period and Antti Niemi earned his 29th career shutout in his return to the net, helping the San Jose Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 2-0 on Saturday night for their seventh win in eight games.
Joe Thornton added an empty-net goal as the Sharks put together one of their most complete performances of the season. They would have won more handily if not for strong play from Pekka Rinne, who made 32 saves for Nashville.
Hertl managed to get one past Rinne in the opening minutes and Niemi made it stand up, making 29 saves after sitting out the past three games. Niemi was banged up after being hit by a shot in the morning skate Tuesday. But he was sharp enough in his return as San Jose earned its sixth consecutive home win.
The Predators failed in their bid to complete a sweep of a three-game road trip, having outscored Colorado and Arizona 8-1 in the first two games.
Rinne, who stopped 57 of 58 shots in those two wins, was just as good against the Sharks but didn’t get enough help for it to matter.
The Sharks dominated from the start, outshooting Nashville 18-7, winning three quarters of the faceoffs, killing two penalties and jumping in front during a strong first period.
Scott Hannan started the scoring play with a hard dump-in that Joe Thornton fed to Joe Pavelski. Rinne saved Pavelski’s original shot but Hertl knocked the rebound in for his seventh goal.
San Jose didn’t let up and the game got testy late in the period when Tommy Wingels and James Neal fought during a Predators power play.
The Sharks continued to control the play in the second period and were only prevented from adding to their lead by some splendid goalkeeping from Rinne. He robbed Pavelski twice on a power play and then made back-to-back stops later in the second against Scott Hannan and Patrick Marleau.
The Predators put some pressure on in the third but Niemi was up to the task with a couple of tough saves in his second shutout of the season. He also blanked Los Angeles in the season opener.
NOTES: Four of Thornton’s eight goals this season have been empty-netters. … Predators star D Shea Weber missed most of the second period to get stitches after a collision with Sharks F Tye McGinn. … Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to the lineup after missing a game with an upper-body injury. … Predators F Paul Gaustad (lower body) sat out for the third time in four games.
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