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Sharks advance after dominating Predators in Game 7

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Rutherford: Conference Final Preview

(The Sports Xchange) - The San Jose Sharks advanced to the Western Conference final after routing the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 of their semi-final series at SAP Center on Thursday.

The victory saw the Sharks advance to a matchup against the St. Louis Blues in the best-of-seven West final that will send the winner on to play for the Stanley Cup.

Game 1 will be on Sunday in St. Louis.

The Sharks will be making their fourth appearance in the West finals, and first since going back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. San Jose are seeking their first conference crown.

The Blues and Sharks have met four times in the postseason, only in the first round, with each team winning twice. San Jose won two of three regular-season meeting this year.

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.

Center Joe Thornton tapped home a rebound left on a Logan 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 Nashville defenseman Shea Weber got caught on a pinch.

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Sharks advance after dominating Predators in Game 7
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates after scoring a goal against Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16: Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning gives up a goal to Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 13: Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning scores a goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15: David Backes #42 of the St. Louis Blues (R) celebrates with Jaden Schwartz #17 after scoring a first period goal against Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks (not pictured) in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. The blues beat the Blackhawks 3-2 to win the series. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 27: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save as Nikolay Kulemin #86 of the New York Islanders crashes into Jason Garrison #5 during the first period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 27, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02: Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals reacts after being scored on by Tom Kuhnhackl #34 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers is pushed aside as players from the Panthers and the New York Islanders converge in the crease during the second period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 20: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars scores a goal against Jason Pominville #29 and goalie Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2016 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 27: Clayton Stoner #3 of the Anaheim Ducks and Viktor Arvidsson #38 of the Nashville Predators leap to avoid a collision during the second period of Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Honda Center on April 27, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 19: Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings battles for the puck with Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 19, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Tampa Bay won the game 3-2. Tampa Bay leads the series 3-1. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23: Sami Vatanen #45 of the Anaheim Ducks reacts after scoring on a breakaway against goaltender Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators in the third period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 23, 2016 in Anaheim, California. Vatanen's goal was the eventual game-winning goal. The Ducks defeated the Predators 5-2. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 20: Andrew MacDonald #47 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates after scoring against the Washington Capitals during the second period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Marleau's 64th career playoff goal chased starting Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who broke his stick on the crossbar after the goal.

San Jose goalie Martin Jones stopped all 20 shots Nashville produced for his first career playoff shutout.

The Sharks scored the only two goals of an opening period they dominated from start to finish.

Joe Pavelski potted his ninth goal of the playoffs with a one-timer from 10 feet on the power play after taking a pass from Marleau, who was behind the net.

Joel Ward made it 2-0 when he picked Nashville defenseman Roman Josi's pocket at the visitors' blue line. Rinne was unable to stop a half-speed shot following a stickhandling move at 16:51.

Couture scored his seventh goal of the playoffs and fifth of the series 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 the stick of Weber, and the speedy center broke in alone to beat Rinne with a low shot inside the near post.

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