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Sharks oust Predators

Carolina pushes Montreal to brink

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward sprawls to thwart a point-blank bid by Montreal’s Mike Ribeiro in the third period.
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward sprawls to thwart a point-blank bid by Montreal’s Mike Ribeiro in the third period. (AP Photo)

Patrick Marleau and the San Jose Sharks made quick work of the Nashville Predators to reach the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight season.

Marleau and Steve Bernier each scored power-play goals, and the Sharks eliminated the Predators from the playoffs with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 last night in Nashville.

Nashville had been hoping to tap what had been the NHL's best home-ice advantage in the regular season to force Game 6. But the Predators couldn't sell out the arena, and their best wasn't enough on a night when Marleau -- San Jose's captain -- scored his postseason-best seventh goal.

With Marleau adding to the offensive power of the NHL's best point producer in Joe Thornton and top goal scorer in Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks won their fourth straight game. Now the fifth-seeded Sharks can rest and wait to see who they play next.

The Predators refused to go away easily. Paul Kariya scored his second goal of the series on a power play at 11:06 of the third, pulling Nashville to 2-1. Nashville got another man advantage, hoping to tie the game.

But Vesa Toskala smothered the only power-play shot by Marek Zidlicky with 4:21 left, and the Sharks held on even as the Predators pulled their goalie in the final minute for the extra attacker.

San Jose had too much for Nashville. With top goalie Tomas Vokoun out with a blood condition, the Predators were outshot, 171-137, in the series and matched their longest skid of the season in bowing out.

Hurricanes 2, Canadiens 1 -- The Carolina Hurricanes won more games at home during the regular season than any other team in the Eastern Conference. They finally regained that edge, thanks to another outstanding effort from rookie goalie Cam Ward.

The 22-year-old former backup stopped 30 shots to win his third straight start, Eric Staal and Matt Cullen had power-play goals, and the Hurricanes beat Montreal in Raleigh, N.C., to take a 3-2 advantage in the first-round series.

In each of the first four games, the visiting team came out on top, with two going beyond regulation. Carolina became the first host to take a two-goal lead before the Canadiens rallied, and now the teams head back to Montreal for Game 6 tomorrow night.

The Hurricanes were 31-8-2 at the RBC Center this season, trailing only Nashville (65 points) in the NHL for most points at home. Calgary tied Carolina with 64.

Ward took over for Martin Gerber in the first period of Game 2, and even though the Hurricanes lost in double overtime, he was solid enough to give them a chance. Ward had 50 saves in his first two playoff starts as Carolina won both to even the series.

Avalanche 3, Stars 2 -- Andrew Brunette scooped a shot over sprawling goaltender Marty Turco 13:55 into overtime to give visiting Colorado a victory over Dallas, wrapping up the first-round series in five games for the seventh-seeded Avalanche.

Joe Sakic took a shot that bounded off Turco, and Brunette scored despite a desperate sliding attempt by Mike Modano to stop the puck. It was Colorado's third overtime victory in the series.

The Stars outshot Colorado, 11-4, in the extra period, including seven shots during the frame's only power play. But Dallas couldn't solve Jose Theodore, who had 50 saves.

Sakic also had his 81st career playoff goal, the most among active players, as the Avalanche advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the eighth time in 10 postseason trips.

Sabres 3, Flyers 0 -- Rookie goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 24 shots to record his first playoff shutout, and Tim Connolly and J.P. Dumont scored power-play goals and had an assist each in Buffalo's win. Maxim Afinogenov also scored, helping the Sabres bounce back from two road losses and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.

Game 6 is tomorrow night at Philadelphia in a series in which the home team has won every game.

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