NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Viktor Arvidsson’s first playoff goal of his young career certainly is a moment to remember. The rest of the Nashville Predators are just grateful he scored so quickly after surviving a triple-overtime thriller in Game 4.
Arvidsson scored 2:03 into overtime, and the Predators forced a deciding seventh game for their second straight series by beating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Monday night.
“That was the second most exciting part of him scoring was that it was in the first three minutes,” Predators left wing Colin Wilson said. “We get to get to bed at a regular time. It’s big to get that out of the way early. I’m happy for Arvy.”
The young Swede jumped the puck just inside the blue line going into Nashville’s offensive zone, splitting between Melker Karlsson and Justin Braun on his left with Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the right. He skated up the left side into the circle before throwing a backhander past goaltender Martin Jones.
“Unbelievable,” said Arvidsson, who turned 23 last month. “I didn’t see it go in at first. The crowd went crazy, and I just didn’t know what to do. It was really nice.”
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette had just moved Arvidsson to the top line with Johansen and Filip Forsberg for this game, and the Swede responded by scoring his first goal this postseason. Fans celebrated by tossing a bunch of the hats given away for this game onto the ice.
“He’s such a fun player to watch,” Laviolette said of Arvidsson. “He got some speed behind him in the neutral zone. He was able to turn it over and get an angle to get a shot off. It was a great shot.”
No road team has won yet in this second-round series, and the franchise that had never forced a Game 7 until this postseason will play in its second straight with a berth in the Western Conference finals on the line. The Predators just earned their first two-day break between games since the postseason started.
The Predators forced the first Game 7 in franchise history two weeks ago by beating Anaheim in Game 6, and now they’ll add their fifth flight to California and the approximately 15,000 miles traveled already this postseason.
“We need that break, and I feel like it will give us a push when we go out there for Game 7,” Laviolette said.
Game 7 is Thursday night in San Jose.
“It’s two good teams going at it,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “It should come down to a Game 7. We’re excited and looking forward to it in our building.”
Colin Wilson, Ryan Johansen and Roman Josi also scored for Nashville, which now has won consecutive overtime games on home ice.
Logan Couture scored a power-play goal in the third period for San Jose, which blew a 2-0 lead after Chris Tierney scored twice in the first. Jones finished with 28 saves, giving the Sharks a chance to reach overtime after Nashville outshot San Jose 27-10 after the first period.
San Jose routed Nashville 5-1 to push the Predators to the brink of elimination, and the Sharks appeared ready to advance with another early lead.
Tierney redirected a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic past Pekka Rinne at 9:55, a goal upheld on review to ensure Tierney’s stick was below the crossbar. Then he scored again at 11:51 with a backhander for his third goal this postseason.
Josi, who had more shots (38) without a goal this postseason than any other player, finally ended his drought all on his own, skating up the slot and bouncing the puck past Jones at 15:27. That finally gave Nashville fans a reason to cheer and the Predators some life.
Johansen, acquired in a January trade that cost Nashville promising defenseman Seth Jones, tied it 1:25 into the second. With the teams playing 4-on-4, he skated around Sharks defenseman Justin Braun and beat Jones with a backhander.
Couture scored his sixth goal this postseason on the Sharks’ first man advantage of the game after Predators forward Miikka Salomaki caught Jones in the head with his stick. Couture’s wrist shot from the left circle easily beat Rinne, who stumbled as he went backward in the crease midway through the third.
Wilson tied it up off an assist from James Neal at 12:44. Only Jones making save after save forced the game to the second straight overtime in Nashville.
“They were better than us tonight,” Couture said. “That’s just the game. We weren’t good enough, so we’re going to need to be a lot better in Game 7.”
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