The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues played a defensive slugfest Monday night in the second half of a home-and-home series, with the Blues dealing the Preds a 2-1 loss – their first regulation setback in seven games. Despite the loss, Nashville is 8-2-2 in its past 12 games and 4-1-2 through seven of eight straight intra-divisional matchups.
“In a lot of ways, tonight’s game was similar to Saturday night’s game in Nashville,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “We didn’t create as many chances, but at the same time we had three breakaways and several point-blank shots that we failed to convert."
Both goalies played stellar for their respective teams in front of 15,239 at the Scottrade Center. Chris Mason made 20-of-22 saves for the Predators, while Manny Legace put in a 24 –save effort.
“Mase was real strong again in net for us – he is doing everything we expected of him,” Trotz said. He is seeing the puck well, and playing with confidence.”
Nashville outshot and out-chanced its opponent throughout the game, but failed to solve Legace until it was too late.
The teams started the night with a bit of a feeling-out period, despite clashing less than 48 hours ago in the Music City. Few chances were created until a Preds power play at 8:52, where J.P. Dumont struck a post from his position three feet in front of the crease, and a Shea Weber slap shot destined for the top corner was snagged by a flashing Manny Legace glove.
The Predators kept the pace up even after the man-advantage time expired, and came oh-so-close to a one-goal lead again at 12:40 when Greg de Vries snuck in from his point position threw a backhander at the net that Legace got a toe on.
A spirited, up-tempo, yet scoreless first period ended with the Predators holding a 10-6 edge in the shots department.
Chris Mason shuts the door on a Keith Tkachuk rebound attempt from the top of the crease.
St. Louis came out with an early jump in the second, but a confident Mason used solid positioning and rebound control to turn four quick shots away with ease. A Nashville power play slowed the Blues down three minutes in, but back-to-back penalties by Jed Ortmeyer and Greg Zanon ultimately led to a St. Louis man-advantage tally at 9:32.
Former Pred Paul Kariya got the goal, tipping an Eric Johnson point shot through a screened Mason to claim a 1-0 lead. The goal camp a minute-and-a-half after David Legwand and Martin Erat produced on of Nashville’s best scoring chances of the night on a shorthanded two-on-one, which ended with Legwand putting a point-blank shot off the side of the net.
“We missed our shots and chances, while they played very well and buried theirs,” Trotz said.
Nashville continued to produce chances as the period progressed, but just couldn’t finish. A 60-foot pass from the Preds zone sprung Erat on a breakaway late in the frame, but he failed to get a solid shot off.
Legace continued to thwart all Predator offense early in the third. Dumont was again stoned on a shot from the slot just 67 seconds into the final frame, and a lethal Marek Zidlicky one-timer from between the hash marks was shouldered out of play by the Blues goalie with 4:35 expired.
"We just need to bear down, and execute when we get the puck in a position to score,” Trotz said “We were getting it to those spots, but missing a little bit on the finishes. That is what happens sometimes against two evenly matched teams.”
The Blues skaters meanwhile, rallied around their goaltender to claim a two-goal lead at the 6:40 mark. Brad Boyes converted a rebound from the doorstep for his second goal in as many games against the Preds, pounding home a bouncing puck from Mason’s left side.
With the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, the Predators ruined Legace’s shutout attempt with their first goal at 18:57. Radek Bonk got the tally, tipping a Weber howitzer from the point for his team-high eighth goal of the season. Zidlicky set up Weber for the one-timer to collect an assist as well, his third in as many games. Weber’s helper gave him points in back-to-back games since returning from a knee injury.
Martin Gelinas clears the puck away from Doug Weight.
Nashville continued to launch an assault on the Blues with Mason pulled for the extra skater, but St. Louis crowded the shooting lanes, preventing many shots from finding their way on net.
Thanksgiving night (Nov. 22) will be the next time the Predators take the ice, hosting the Detroit Red Wings at the Sommet Center for the first time this season. Tickets are still available to the 7 p.m. CT contest by calling (615) 770- PUCK, logging on to nashvillepredators.com or ticketmaster.com and by visiting the Sommet Center Box Office.
GAME NOTES: Nashville scratched Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein and Jason Arnott and St. Louis sat Martin Rucinsky, Matt Walker and Jay McKee… The Preds now have a 4-1-2 in the stretch in a stretch of seven straight against Central Division foes… Nashville is 6-1-2 in November and 4-2-2 against the Central Division… The last 13 Predator tallies have come at even strength, meaning the power play has failed to cash in on its past 18 attempts…Nashville has now outshot its opponent the past four games after being outshot the previous five... These two teams meet for the next time Jan. 19 in St. Louis… Ryan Suter played a game-high 23:32, while Darcy Hordichuk and Scott Nichol paces the Preds with three hits apiece… Both Scott Nichol (seven wins, two losses) and Radek Bonk (13 wins, seven losses) fared well in the face-off circle, winning more than 60 percent of their draws.
1 - 0 STL
2 - 0 STL
2 - 1 STL
Holding the stick