NASHVILLE –- Pekka Rinne responded from his worst game of the season, and Viktor Arvidsson scored twice to lead the Predators to a 6-2 win over the Sharks on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
San Jose (27-20-4, 58 points) lost for just the second time in regulation in its last 13 games (9-2-2), and fell 1-2 on a four-game road trip. The Sharks have just a one-point lead on Anaheim for second place in the Pacific Division. The Ducks, idle on Saturday, have one game in hand.
The Preds withstood an early push by the Sharks and opened up a 2-0 lead by the middle of the second period.
Newcomer Ryan Johansen continues to impress since joining Nashville. His fancy backhanded pass from behind the net found James Neal, and the Preds’ leading goal scorer flicked the puck through Martin Jones at 13:12 of the first period.
Calle Jarnkrok upped the Preds’ lead to 2-0. The Sharks were caught cheating up the ice after a faceoff in their defensive end, leaving Jarnkrok all alone between the circles. Johansen spotted him, and Jarnkrok’s shot bounded off of Jones’ shoulder and just over the line at 6:26 of the second.
Joe Thornton’s power play goal at 15:41 cut the Nashville lead in half when he tapped in a loose one-timer by Marc-Edouard Vlasic that he had set up on a backhander through the seam.
San Jose Sharks
Arvidsson, though, restored the two-goal lead with a perfect top shelf wrist shot from a difficult angle that beat Jones high to the short side at 17:01, and Nashville took a 3-1 lead to the dressing room after two periods.
Nashville put the game away with a pair of third period goals. Forsberg whizzed a wrist shot on a shorthanded odd-man rush at 6:15 after the Sharks just missed on the other end, and about two minutes later Forsberg set up Arvidsson’s second of the night at 8:44, again off the rush.
Couture’s power play goal on a one-timer from Thornton brought the Sharks back to within 5-2 with less than six minutes left, but Shea Weber’s empty-net goal with 4:37 to go extinguished any thoughts of a miracle comeback.
Rinne, who allowed a season-high six goals on just 19 shots in a loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, made his best stops early. Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward each had prime looks at the end about eight minutes into the game, and later Rinne got in front of a Vlasic attempt on a two-on-one with Ward.
San Jose had given up just 25 goals over its last 12 games, but allowed their most goals-against since a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Dec. 28.
The Predators have won both games of the season series with the Sharks, who return to the Music City on April 2.
Nashville, which improved to 1-2 on a three-game homestand, has won six straight home games against the Sharks.
The Sharks finished 2-for-5 on the power play, but allowed their fifth shorthanded goal of the season and second in three games.
In their last 12 games, the Sharks have 11 power play goals in 41 chances (26.8 percent).
Nashville was 0-for-2.
Jones, making his seventh straight start, has yet to beat the Predators in his career (0-2-2). He allowed five goals goals on 28 shots, and is 24-15-3 this season.
Rinne came into the game with a stellar .946 save percentage in 19 career games against San Jose. He made 28 saves in moving to 20-17-7 on the year.
Thornton’s marker was the 200th of his Sharks career. He has 11 on the season, including a score against St. Louis on Thursday. In his last 22 games, Thornton has seven goals and 21 assists.
Couture played in his 400th career game, and recorded his 300th career point with a goal.
Johansen has 14 points (4g, 10a) in 13 games since he was acquired from Columbus on Jan. 6. In his last nine games against the Sharks, the center has at least one point in eight of them (7g, 5a).
Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro played in his 1000th career NHL game.
The Sharks wrap up their road trip in Chicago on Tuesday. The defending champs are 2-0 against San Jose, including a 4-3 overtime win at United Center on Dec. 20.
A brief two-game home stand begins on Thursday with Calgary.