The Nashville Predators snapped a three game losing streak, outlasting the St. LouiS Blues 4-3 in a contest marked by chippiness and cheap shots by the Blues. With this win, the Predators have now tallied 23 wins and 49 points for the season and maintained their hold on second place in the Central Division.
St. Louis opened the scoring with a goal by Carlo Colaiacovo just 1:29 in to the contest as he blasted a shot past Pekka Rinne.The Predators tied the game just over four minutes later as J.P. Dumont set up Marcel Goc for his eighth goal of the season, tying a career high for goals. The Predators took a 2-1 lead at 12:49 of the first period as Patric Hornqvist potted his 13th goal of the year by doing the tough work in front of the St. Louis net. He was able to deflect a shot from the circle by Martin Erat past Blues goalie Chris Mason. That score stood for the remainder of the period.
Joel Ward scored the Predators third goal with a tip in in front of the net for his sixth goal of the season. Again, this goal was scored by a Predator going in to the "hard areas" as Head Coach Barry Trotz calls them. Areas that require toughness, areas where you will pay a price to maintain position, but areas where you can be rewarded for the hard work. Wardo was rewarded for his efforts, and because of them, the Predators extended the lead to two goals.
J. P. Dumont stretched the lead to three goals with a beautiful rush, fighting off a defender and sliding the puck five hole on Mason. At 4-1, this game looked well in hand.
Looks can be deceiving. The Blues cut the lead to 4-2 with a sharp angle goal by Alex Steen at 9:08 of the third, beating Rinne to the far corner top shelf. That goal seemed to breathe new life into the Blues and they turned up the intensity. From that point on, the Preds looked as if they were just trying to hang on for the win.
Andy MacDonald scored on an easy tap in on a Blues power play, as Pekka Rinne could not control a rebound. Keith Tkachuk slid the puck over to a wide open MacDonald for the score at 12:30 of the third, and all of a sudden, the Predators were hanging on for dear life.
Although the Blues had some great scoring chances, Rinne was able to shut the door and the Predator defense bottled up the Blues and limited the quality scoring chances against the Predator net. The clock ran out, and the Predators had the win they needed to right the ship.
This was a chippy contest, and the Blues took every liberty they could on the ice. Kevin Klein was knocked out of the game by a head shot from behind by Tkachuk in the first period. Marty Erat was taken out of the game by a knee on knee hit from Barret Jackman in the second period. There was plenty of rough stuff in front of the Blues net as Patric Hornqvist took a number of hits after the whistle. Chippy. And Cheap. The Blues looked like a desperate team trying anything, legal or not, to end their home ice losing streak.
I had mentioned that the Predators needed their best players to be their best players for this team to have an opportunity to win. Tonight, the best players stepped up. Shea Weber had three assists and was solid in the defensive zone. J. P. Dumont had a goal and an assist. Marty Erat had an assist before being taken out of the game. Patric Hornqvist continued his tough play in front of the opponents net and was rewarded with a goal. Joel Ward scored by going to the net. This is the way this team has to play to win. Tonight, they played Predator hockey. Tonight, they skated off the ice with a win.
With this win, the Predators are 24-6-3 against the Blues since the 2005-6 season. These are tough games, but the kind of games the Predators need to win to stay in the playoff hunt.
It would have been easy to wilt under the pressure that the Blues exerted in the third period. The Predators bent, but they didn't break. They didn't quit. They played with heart.
The wars will continue. Every game will be a battle. Everyone on this team will have to battle, have to show heart, and play with grit. Expect the battles. Play to win. Play Predator hockey and continue the march to the playoffs.