The Nashville Predators came from behind to earn a point for the 10th time in the last 11 outings, but lost a hard-fought battle with the St. Louis Blues in a shootout, 3-2, Saturday night at the Sommet Center. One of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League, the Predators are 8-1-2 in that 11-game stretch, and 4-0-2 in a current eight-game stretch against Central Division foes.
“It is sort of one of those feeling where you go in the room and can’t believe you lost, but that’s hockey,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We weren’t able to get two or three goals and get a big lead. They hung around and it went to a shootout, and anything can happen then.”
The night was one of milestones for David Legwand, as he tied a couple of franchise marks with a first-period assist. In addition to tying Greg Johnson for second on the all-time games played list (502), the helper tied Nashville’s first-ever draft pick with Kimmo Timonen for first on the franchise’s points list. It also served as his 10th point (3g-7a) in the past eight games.
“It is nice to put the record behind me and move forward – it was a big thing for me,” Legwand said. “Kimmo is gone, but he was big for this team and this franchise. We miss him here, but it is nice to tie him and move forward.”
The Preds out-chances and outshot the Blues, ending the night with a 37-20 advantage – the third straight game they have outshot their opponent. Chris Mason continued his steady play in net for the sixth straight game, stopping 18 shots.
Scott Nichol celebrates following Jordin Tootoo's marker in the second period.
The first 15 minutes of the opening period produced little offense – St. Louis received two power plays in that span, but effective penalty killing generated more momentum for the Predators than the Bluenotes.
“We knew before the game they would try to throw a lot of pucks at the net and we did a good job in our zone shutting down lanes and blocking shots and that limited their shots on goal,” defenseman Greg Zanon said.
Despite few opportunities to do so, Nashville scored the first goal of the game for the ninth time in 11 outings at 15:54. Similar to the play he made on Alexander Radulov’s third-period goal on Thursday, Legwand spearheaded the tally by simply pushing the puck to a streaking teammate – this time it was Shea Weber, appearing in his first game since going down with an injury on opening night, Oct. 4. Weber ripped a slap shot on goalie Hannu Toivonen, and Radulov eluded two defenders to pound home the rebound from the doorstep.
“Shea was cutting through there and we knew Toivonen was having some trouble stopping some shots,” Legwand said. “Rads just did a good job going to the tough area, getting behind the D and putting in the rebound.”
The Predators came out with an extra jump in their step to commence the second, outshooting St. Louis 10-1 in the first 11 minutes of the period. Four of those shots came on an impressive attack late part way through the stretch, leading to the Preds first power play at 8:31.
But, it was the Blues that drew second-period blood, tying the game at 1-1 with 12:43 expired in the frame. The puck pinballed off a defender in front, and directly onto the stick of Brad Boyes, who netted his team-leading 11th goal of the season with a top-shelf wrist shot. Mason had lost track of it in the herd in front of the net.
Exactly four minutes later, St. Louis went up 2-1. Rookie David Perron scored the go-ahead goal, converting a cross-the-slot pass from Lee Stempniak.
Defenseman Greg Zanon (5) reaches for the puck with his skate as he battles for it with former Pred Paul Kariya (9) in the second period.
“The first period both teams were fairly even, but in the second we had a lot of quality chances,” Trotz said. “By our stats, we had 14 quality chances to four and we lost the period 2-1. It might be as simple as that – scoring on our chances.”
The Blues only held the lead for 43 seconds, as Jordin Tootoo locked knotted the game at 2-2. Martin Gelinas made the goal happen, circling into the zone and throwing a shot toward the St. Louis net that a well-positioned Tootoo simply redirected through Toivonen’s legs. Marek Zidlicky also collect an assist his second in as many games.
“I thought our line played well, we got a big goal there to tie it 2-2,” said Scott Nichol, who played on a line with Gelinas and Tootoo for the fifth straight game. “We kept it simple and kept cycling. Marty is strong on the puck and Tootoo has a good shot so we just tried to use those things against them.”
Tootoo has had quite the success against St. Louis, the marker was his fourth goal and seventh point in 15 games against the Blues. He has 26 points in 173 games against the rest of the NHL.
Nashville generated some of its best scoring chances of the night midway through the third but the St. Louis netminder kept his team in the game. Nichol had a point-blank shot from the side of the crease kicked away seven minutes into the period, and Radulov was thwarted on a power play breakaway at 9:40.
“There were a lot of rebounds and a lot of loose pucks, but Toivonen battled, and the pucks didn’t find the back of the net,” Trotz said. “Sometimes as a coach, you don’t want the style points, but the win, and he got that.”
Both teams got a bit more conservative on sending players deep in the zone as time ran down in regulation, and for the fourth time in the last five games, extra time was needed to decide a Preds contest.
Playing four-on-four in overtime, chances came one right after the other, with end-to-end action resulting in several close chances and a 6-1 Nashville shot advantage. Despite the nonstop action, a shootout was necessary for the third time.
It took all six shooters to decide the most exciting way in sports to award a winner, but in the end Brad Boyes net the only shootout goal to give St. Louis the two-point victory. J.P. Dumont, Erat and Radulov came up fruitless for Nashville.
St. Louis Blues right winger Mike Johnson, and Ryan Suter fall as they chase the puck in the second period.
“We got a point, but the thing with a shootout is that you play a good game and then you lose it is a disappointment,” Mason said. “We played hard, so we need to build on the way we’ve been playing lately.”
These same two teams will meet again in 48 hours at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The game will not be televised locally, but all the action can be followed on the radio at WGFX-104.5 The Zone.
“It was a really good game, we could have been sitting here saying we won 3-2 to in a shootout, but sometimes you play a good game and don’t get rewarded,” Trotz said. “We just have to go back to St. Louis and try to get those points back.”
GAME NOTES: Nashville scratched Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein and Darcy Horduchuk from the lineup, while the Blues sat D.J. King, Matt Walker and Jay McKee… Nashville has outscored its opponent 18-6 in the third period of the last 11 games… The last 12 Predators goals have been scored at even strength… Nashville is 8-1-2 in their last 11, 4-0-2 mark through six of eight straight against Central Division… The Preds are 4-1-2 on the season against the Central Division, 6-0-2 in the month of November, and 9-0-1 when scoring first… Nashville has won 15 of its past 18 clashes with the Blues dating back to Oct. 15, 2005… The Preds lead the all-time series 23-21-7 through 51 games… Jordin Tootoo’s second-period goal (his fifth of the year) tied a career high through just 18 games… Ryan Suter played a team-high 25:09, while Marek Zidlicky and Greg Zanon led the team in blocked shots with four apiece. Zanon also doled out a game-high six hits… Jerred Smithson was the best Pred in the face-off circle, winning six of seven draws.
1 - 0 NSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 STL