Saturday, February 4, 2012

Predators Leave St. Louis Blue

4-0.

That is the Predators season record against the St. Louis Blues.

Looking at that record, one would think that the Predators have had an easy go of it against the Blues.

But as tonight's game at the Bridgestone Arena showed games against the Blues are anything but a cakewalk. War is the appropriate term.

The Predators prevailed over the Blues by a 3-1 margin in a contest that was end to end and complete with big hits, great goaltending from both netminders, and opportunistic scoring by both teams.

Pekka Rinne had the start in net for the Predators, while St. Louis went with Jaroslav Halak for the second contest in a row after his start the previous night against Los Angeles.

The contest opened with St. Louis controlling the puck and establishing territorial advantage. The Blues peppered Rinne with shots in the first 10 minutes of the contest, holding an 11-3 advantage. It was the Predators though that would capitalize first on one of their three shots.

David Perron was called for hooking at 6:28 of the first period. The Predators worked the puck down low, then rotated the puck out to the point to Marty Erat, who had rotated out for the pinching defenseman. Erat let a blast go from the blue line that beat Halak cleanly over his shoulder at 6:59. On the play, Patric Hornqvist flashed across the face of Halak as Erat fired the shot, and his screen was enough to take away the vision of Halak, who appeared not to see the shot.

As the period wore on, the Predators reversed the trend of the Blues territorial dominance and began to pour shots on the Blues goal. Their efforts were rewarded at 12:30 of first period as Sergei Kostitsyn worked hard behind the Blues net to control the puck. He found Mike Fisher at the side of the net, and Fisher popped a shot over the shoulder of Halak to give the Predators a 2-0 lead. For Fisher, this was his 6th goal in the past 5 games.

In the first period, the Blues out shot the Predators 16-14, but it was a tale of two halves in that period. The Blues controlled play early, and Rinne made some big saves to keep them off the board. The Predators controlled play in the final 10 minutes of the period, and were able to opportunistically capitalize on their chances.

The second period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort by the Predators. They dominated in this period, cranking 17 shots on net, while the Blues managed just 7. If not for great saves by Halak, the Predators could have easily blown this game wide open.

Everyone in the building knew the Blues would have a push in the third period, and they certainly did. They finally solved Rinne at 4:01 of the third when Chris Stewart picked the pocket of Roman Josi in the slot and fired a wrist shot that beat Rinne glove side to make it 2-1 Predators.

That goal energized the Blues, and they took control of the period. They had 20 shots on goal to just 6 for the Predators, and Rinne made some amazing saves to keep the Blues off the board. He stopped Kris Russell on two consecutive shots with some acrobatic saves. Rinne had to fend off numerous shots through traffic, and did a great job of tracking the puck with lots of bodies in front of him. For the night, Rinne had 41 saves.

As the clock wound down, the Blues pulled Halak for the extra attacker. The Predators were able to find the empty net as David Legwand and Sergei Kostitsyn came down on a 2 on 1 rush. Legwand slipped the puck to Kostitsyn, and he buried the shot to send the Blues and their fans in attendance home...well, blue.

This was a huge win for the Predators, as it allowed them to move one point in front of the Blues and back into second in the Central Division and 4th in the Western Conference. With this win, the Predators are 12-2-2 against Central Division opponents.

As this game vividly demonstrated, the remainder of the games on the schedule are going to be a war. St. Louis is a very good hockey team, and to beat a good hockey team, you have to bring your best effort. Tonight, The Predators won this game as a team, with a good team effort. Yes, there are some aspects of the game for the Predators that could improve, but the fact is that this team battled and competed hard, and that is what it takes to win these wars.

The wars will continue. Prepare to bring it, boys.

And leave your opponents blue.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Jaroslav Halak

3. Marty Erat

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