Predators 4, Sharks 3

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Paul Kariya found his teammates all night long.

Adam Hall scored the go-ahead goal at 12:06 of the third period by redirecting a shot by Kariya, who assisted on all four of Nashville’s power-play goals in the Predators’ 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday in the opener of the first-round Western Conference series.

Mike Sillinger scored and had an assist, and Martin Erat and rookie defenseman Shea Weber both netted their first career playoff goals as the Predators showed why they enjoyed the NHL’s best home-ice advantage this season.

The Predators opened their second playoff appearance on their own ice where they led the league with a 32-8-1 record. And the sellout crowd roared for every move.

The fifth-seeded Sharks had won eight of nine, and they also brought in the NHL’s top offensive threats in Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Thornton had a league-high 125 points, and Cheechoo led the NHL with 56 goals, but they were held to just one assist from Thornton.

Mike Smith scored 4:12 in for the Sharks, who went 30-8 in the regular season when taking a 1-0 lead. Nils Ekman was set up by Thornton in the second period, and Scott Thornton tied it 3-3 in the third.

Chris Mason made his playoff debut and did a fine job in replacing No. 1 goalie Tomas Vokoun, who carried the Predators to 36 victories but is out for the season with a blood condition. A day after turning 30, Mason made 31 saves in winning his seventh straight game.

The Predators outshot San Jose 14-8 in the opening period and kept the puck away from Mason. But San Jose, the NHL’s third-least penalized team, picked up three penalties within 10 minutes. Nashville made the Sharks pay by going 4-of-7 with the man advantage.

Sillinger tied it 27 seconds into the first power play, possibly with the help of Sharks forward Ville Nieminen’s glove. The puck was redirected in front and went past Vesa Toskala, who also made his postseason debut in net.

Officials reviewed the goal for a possible high stick infraction, but it stood.

Cheechoo then was called for interference at 9:31, and Erat scored on a slap shot from the left circle at 10:56 for a 2-1 lead. Kariya then found Weber in front of the net for the third power-play goal with 19:56 left to make it 3-1.

Thornton found Ekman in the right circle, and he beat Mason high at 8:50 of the second to pull San Jose within 3-2.

But Mason stopped Matt Carle in front while the teams skated 4-on-4 late in the period, then made a right-pad stop off a shot from Nieminen during a 3-on-1 break.

Scott Thornton tied it at 10:31 of the third, but Kariya got the puck to Hall 1:35 later to put Nashville ahead to stay.

Notes: Kariya’s first three assists gave him seven points within four periods. He extended his point streak to four games and has 11 points in that span. … San Jose was 7-9 during the regular season when trailing after one period.

AP-ES-04-21-06 2259EDT

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