San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton. UPI/Gary C. Caskey | License Photo
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks ran the Nashville Predators out of the building on Thursday night, and right out of the playoffs as well.
With goals from five different skaters -- all the big names, no less -- San Jose capped a second-round playoff victory with a 5-0 Game 7 thumping to the delight of a sold-out SAP Center.
"We've been saying all year, we're just deep," Sharks forward Joe Thornton said. "We roll four lines, we roll six D and we have so much trust in each other that whoever goes over those boards we just have confidence they can do the job."
With their eighth win in 12 games this spring, the Sharks advance to meet the St. Louis Blues for a best-of-seven Western Conference finals series that will send the winner on to play for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 will be Sunday in St. Louis.
The Predators were not able to recreate their first-round outcome by following an elimination-game win in Game 6 against with a Game 7 victory at Anaheim. This time, after beating the Sharks in overtime of Game 6, the Predators made the long trip in vein.
"They were the better team tonight," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said. "We couldn't get anything going. It was tough. They deserved it. It was a great series back and forth but they played better tonight."
The Sharks will be making their fourth appearance in the West finals, and first since going back-to-back in 2010 and '11. San Jose is seeking its first conference crown.
The Blues and Sharks have met four times in the postseason, only in the first round, and each team has won twice. San Jose won two of three regular-season meeting this year.
In closing out the Predators, the Sharks were relentless from start to finish. They scored twice in the first, outshooting Nashville 17-3 in the process. San Jose built its lead to 3-0 inside the first minute of the second and scored twice early in the third to leave no doubt.
"We were prepared, I think it started in the morning," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "It was led by our leadership and veterans in the room and everybody just followed. And I think it was to a man. It was probably our best 20-man performance of the playoffs."
Leading by three going into the final period, the Sharks took advantage of defenseman Mattias Ekholm's cross-check of Tommy Wingels at the horn of the second period.
Thornton tapped home a rebound left on a Couture shot when San Jose broke on 4-on-1 after intercepting a Mike Fisher drop pass just inside the San Jose blue line. Thornton's third goal of the postseason came 32 seconds into the third.
Patrick Marleau capped a 2-on-1 break with Couture to score his fourth of the playoffs at 3:54 after Weber got caught on a pinch. Marleau's 64th career playoff goal chased starting Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who broke his stick on the crossbar after the goal.
"That was childish and not the way you want to end the season," Rinne said. "I wish I hadn't have done that. Yeah, it was frustration."
"Wave after wave we just kept coming after them," Thornton added.
San Jose goalie Martin Jones stopped all 20 shots Nashville produced for his first career playoff shutout.
Couture scored his seventh goal of the playoffs just 36 seconds into the second period to give the hosts a 3-0 lead they would nurse throughout the middle period. Couture pounced when the puck slipped off Weber's stick, and broke in alone to beat Rinne with a low shot inside the near post.
"It didn't help that they scored right away in the second period," Rinne said. "Tonight, they outplayed us. They got off to a good start and we were unable to match it."
After cranking off the first six shots of the game, and seven of the first eight in the opening period, San Jose went on the power play courtesy of a Victor Arvidsson delay-of-game penalty when the Nashville left wing tossed the puck over the glass.
Forty seconds elapsed before Pavelski potted his ninth goal of the playoff season with a one-timer from 10 feet out after taking a pass from Marleau, who was behind the net.
"We started off pretty good, it was just a matter of finishing it off," Ward said.
The Sharks went 2-for-3 on the power play to finish the series 8-for-21. Nashville earned only one power play for a second straight game, and failed to convert on any of its chances since Game 3.
"Hat's off to the Nashville team and the coaches," DeBoer said. "They just wouldn't go away. They beat a great Anaheim team that a lot of people picked to win the Stanley Cup and dealt with a lot of travel. I think we got them a little fatigued here tonight, which I think helped."
NOTES: F Tommy Wingels replaced injured LW Matt Nieto for San Jose. Wingels, a healthy scratch for Games 5 and 6, was slotted into the fourth line at right wing alongside C Nick Spaling and LW Dainius Zubrus while LW Melker Karlsson was promoted next to C Chris Tierney and RW Joel Ward on the third line. Nieto sustained an undisclosed injury midway through Game 6 in Nashville on Monday. ... Nashville went with the same lineup as for its Game 6 overtime win. ... San Jose was 5-4 all-time in Game 7s, including 2-1 at home. However, the Sharks had lost four of their last five Game 7s beforehand. Nashville played its first Game 7 to win its first-round series in Anaheim on April 27. ... Predators coach Peter Laviolette is 5-1 in Game 7s. ... D Dylan DeMelo, D Matt Tennyson and C Micheal Haley were San Jose's healthy scratches. ... D Petter Granberg, C Cody Bass, LW Eric Nystrom, LW Pontus Aberg, LW Austin Watson, RW Gabriel Bourque did not dress for Nashville.