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Resilient Sharks win in double overtime
By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
Apr 12, 2007 - 1:15:05 AM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The San Jose Sharks lost top scorer Jonathan Cheechoo, maybe for the postseason. Then they blew a two-goal lead and watched the Nashville Predators dominate the final 48 minutes. Somehow, the Sharks managed to win their first playoff game of the year.

Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun, center, of the Czech Republic and defenseman Ryan Suter (20) watch the game-winning goal by San Jose Skarks center Patrick Rissmiller (34) go in the net as right wing Mike Grier (25) falls down after making the assist in the second overtime period of an NHL playoff hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday, April 11, 2007. San Jose won, 5-4. (AP Photo/Neil Brake)

Patrick Rissmiller scored at 8:14 of the second overtime, and the Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 Wednesday night in the opening game of the Western Conference first-round series.

"We bent a little bit, but we didn't break," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said.

Rissmiller, who scored only seven goals in the regular season, beat Tomas Vokoun with a shot from the edge of the left circle after taking a crisp pass from Patrick Marleau.

"I just saw Patty with it, and I knew that if I was going to the net he would either shoot it or pass to me," Rissmiller said. "It was a good pass, and when you have speed going at their D, it's tough to defend."

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday in Nashville.

San Jose squandered a 4-2 lead after two, an advantage built with three goals in the middle frame after the Sharks lost Cheechoo, their top goal scorer to an injured right knee nine minutes into the period.

Wilson said he wasn't sure of the extent of the injury. Cheechoo will have an MRI.

"It could be serious," Wilson said. "It was like a two-part attack. It was an elbow to the mouth that knocked a tooth out and the knee-on-knee contact, which you've got two of the worst things that we have in hockey ... If that's not trying to hurt somebody, I don't know what is."

Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he studied a replay and didn't see Scott Hartnell stick a knee out.

"It's unfortunate when anybody gets hurt in the game. But looking at it, I thought it was a pretty clean hit. I mean they did collide knee on knee. But there was no sticking out of the knee," Trotz said.

The Predators, who stood atop the NHL until March 29 before slipping to the West's No. 4 seed, scored twice in the final 6:55 of regulation to force the first overtime in the franchise's short postseason history.

Alexander Radulov scored his second goal with 7:05 left, and J.P. Dumont scored his second of the game with 50.4 seconds remaining in regulation, tipping a slap shot from Shea Weber past Evgeni Nabokov's glove.

Weber had two assists for a team that went 4-15-1 in the regular season when trailing after two.

"We let a very good team back in that game and gave them hope," said San Jose defenseman Craig Rivet, who scored on a 5-on-3 power play and had an assist. "We were the lucky ones to come out with the victory."

Joe Thornton, the NHL's second-leading scorer with 114 points, and Marleau each had two assists for San Jose. Matthew Carle, Mike Grier and Milan Michalek scored a goal each.

San Jose has won five straight playoff games against Nashville after taking the final four in the first round last year.

The Sharks were outshot 20-16 through two periods and 43-38 overall.

Radulov got Nashville back into the game with a fine workmanlike effort. The rookie in his first playoff game skated up the right boards, fought off Kyle McLaren for the puck, then scored over Nabokov's right leg at 13:05 of the third.

Nashville had a power play with less than four minutes left in regulation but couldn't score. With Vokoun pulled for an extra skater, the Predators kept the puck in their offensive end.

Martin Erat, who missed the final 11 games of the regular season, passed the puck out to Weber at the blue line. He one-timed the puck toward the net, and Dumont deflected it past Nabokov to create the loudest roar of the night in the sold-out arena.

With fans snapping plastic clappers handed out during intermission and into overtime, the Predators took six of the first eight shots and had several chances to end the game.

But Nabokov stopped each one, including a breakaway shot by Jordin Tootoo that he squeezed between his legs before falling onto his back.

Vokoun had his share of spectacular saves, including stopping Marleau on a breakaway 6:25 into the second overtime by stretching out to his left to block a backhander at the post.

But Vokoun could not stop Rissmiller when Marleau fed the puck to him for a shot that beat the goalie to the wide, right side of the net. Rissmiller celebrated by skating over and jumping up against the glass.

"Luckily, we stuck with it and pulled out the win," Marleau said.

Notes:@ Thornton had nine points in 11 playoff games last year. ... Nashville came in having taken the ninth-fewest penalties in the NHL in the regular season and was the league's third-best penalty killers. San Jose finished 1-of-7 with the man advantage. ... San Jose scored nine of 17 goals with the man advantage when these teams met in the 2006 playoffs, including three 5-on-3s.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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