The Nashville Predators showed much better spunk and fight in a 3-2 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues to end a horrid five game losing streak. With the win, the Predators run their record to 2-1 against the Blues in their season series.
This game was more like the style of hockey that wins games for the Predators. They went strong to the net all night, had an aggressive forecheck, and got great goaltending from Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.
The Predators played much more fundamentally sound defensive hockey than they did in their five game skid. After being outshot 9-4 in the first period, the Predators limited the Blues to just 11 shots over the final two periods. St. Louis outshot the Predators 3-0 in the overtime period as the Predators spent the last 1:19 killing off a tripping penalty by Alexander Sulzer.
The Blues opened the scoring at 18:22 of the first period as the Predators failed to clear a puck in their zone as the Blues were swarming the Nashville net.David Backes ran over Steve Sullivan as he was trying to control the puck and the puck squirted through the slot. The puck came back to Backes and he buried the shot to give the Blues the advantage.
The Predators would even the game at 1 when Cal O'Reilly tapped home a shot from Francis Buillon. O'Reilly was camped at the top of the crease, and when Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak could not control the rebound, O'Reilly cashed in for the tying score at 13:44 of the second period.
The Blues took the lead once again at 5:44 of the third as Kevin Klein took a bad angle on a stretch pass to Matt D'Agostini. This allowed D'Agostini to get in alone on a breakaway against Rinne, and he buried the shot low glove side.
The Predators answered at 13:08 of the third period when David Legwand fired a puck into the Blues zone and off the end board. The rebound came out to the side of the net and J.P. Dumont was driving hard to the net. He got his stick on the puck and lifted a quick backhand over a surprised Halak for the equalizer.
Pekka Rinne made some quality saves in the remainder of the period to preserve the tie. He stopped Vladomir Sobotka from in close and made a nice save on Patrick Bergland with traffic in front. As the game went on, Rinne looked more solid and comfortable in net, and that is a great sign for the Predators. They need the old Rinne back, one who is tracking and playing the puck well.
In the overtime period, David Legwand and Jerred Smithson won some key face offs in the predators zone that allowed the Preds to clear the puck on the penalty kill. These are the little aspects of the game that the Predators had not done very well during their five game losing streak. It's great to see them doing the little things well again as the little details often lead to big results.
In the shootout, the Blues opted to go first, and Matt D'Agostini beat Rinne blocker side to give the Blues a 1-0 lead. Cal O'Reilly smoothly beat Halak high stick side to tie it at 1.
Brad Boyes and Steve Sullivan were both stoned by the goaltenders, as were Andy McDonald and David Legwand.
Going to round 4, Rinne stopped Patrick Bergland. Marcel Goc was the fourth shooter for the Predators, and he mad a nice move to open Halak up and beat him with a shot that went between his skate and the post.
Game over. Losing streak done.
It feels good for the Predators to get the 800 pound gorilla of a five game losing streak off their backs. In this victory, they went back to basics and they did them well. The forecheck ramped up in the second period and kept the Blues out of their offensive flow for most of the rest of the game. The defense was much more sound than it had been in the five losses. When the Blues got scoring chances, Rinne was solid.
A special stick tap to Marcel Goc. He played a tremendous game, generating chances and was strong on the puck all game. He even made a save in the first period when the puck slid through Rinne and was laying on the goal line. Goc swept the puck to the corner to save the goal and keep the scoreless.
Now that the losing streak is over, the predators have to build on this win. They have to stay focused on what brought them victory tonight- sound defense, solid goaltending, aggressive forecheck, and opportunistic offense. This is Predator hockey. This is what the team has to do to win games.
The losing streak is over. It's time to start a new streak. One that puts wins on the board by playing Predator hockey.
My three stars of the game:
1. Marcel Goc
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Cal O'Reilly