The Nashville Predators held off a late attack by the St. Louis Blues to win a 4-3 game at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Tuesday night. The win broke a three game losing steak for the Preds and added to the Blues' home woes, dropping their home record to 6-13-2.
The Predators got goals from Marcel Goc, Joel Ward, Patric Hornqvist, and J. P. Dumont, who also had an assist. Shea Weber picked up three assists for the evening. The Blues received their scoring from Carlo Colaiacavo, Alexander Steen, and Andy McDonald.
Pekka Rinne saved 24 of 27 shots and picked up his 15th win of the season as he awaits word on whether he will be named to the Finnish Olympic team during the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday. Chris Mason took his second career loss to his old team as he stopped 26 of 30 Predator shots.
The win may be costly for the Predators as Martin Erat and Kevin Klein both left the game during the first period with injuries and did not return. There was no word as to the seriousness of the injuries.
The game got off to an uneven start for the Predators. During the Blues second shift Kevin Klein was upended and the Preds appeared to be waiting for a penalty call while the play went the other way and ended with an early goal at 1:29 by Carlo Colaiacavo. Klein was forced to leave the game and did not return due to the "upper body injury".
The Predators answered quickly at 5:04 when Marcel Goc scored his career high eight goal with assists from J. P. Dumont and Ryan Suter to tie the game 1-1.
The Predators went on their first power play of the evening at 10:38 on a slashing call against Roman Polak. They were unable to convert, but five seconds after the penalty expired Patric Hornqvist redirected a Martin Erat shot into the net to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
With 3:01 left in the period, Marty Erat had to leave the game with a "lower body injury" suffered on a knee to knee hit where no penalty was accessed.
The first period ended with a 2-1 Preds lead. For the period the Predators dominated the possession and out shot the Blues 15-6.
The second period started in a nightmarish fashion for the Blues. At 1:21 T. J. Oshie was called for boarding . At 2:00, while battling for the puck behind the Predator net, Barret Jackman caught J. P. Dumont with a high stick to the face from which resulted in a 4:00 double minor. At 3:06 Mike Weaver was called for delay of game when he flipped the puck over the glass from the defensive zone.
After gallant efforts from St. Louis to kill the consecutive 5 on 3 Predator power plays, Joel Ward finally picked up a loose puck in front of the Blues net and scored making it a 3-1 game at 4:09 in the second.
The Blues went on the power play at 11:07 when Steve Sullivan was called for slashing. The Preds successfully killed the penalty. The Predators returned to the man advantage at 15:25 when Keith Tkachuk slew-footed Ryan Jones and was called for tripping. The Preds were unable to score on their power play.
With 39 seconds left in the second period, Shea Weber was called for cross checking as he battled for the puck behind the Predator net. The Preds held the Blues scoreless for the rest of the period.
The Predators again led in in shots for the period by a 11-9 margin.
The third period started with 1:21 left on the St. Louis carry-over man advantage. The Blues managed a shot but no goals on the remainder of their power play.
The Predators were back on the penalty kill at 3:04 when Francis Bouillon was called for hooking when the tried to break up an Andy McDonald break-away. The Predators held firm again.
At 5:16, J. P. Dumont picked up a puck at the Predator blue line and took it the length of the ice past a hounding Darryl Sydor and deeked Chris Mason as he placed it in the net through Mason's five hole. It was an amazing play for Dumont and the goal ended up being the game winner. The Predator lead was 4-1 after scoring four unanswered goals.
With the three goal Predator lead, the Blues began playing desperate hockey firing shots from all angles. It finally paid off at when Alexander Steen took the puck down the right side and fired a bad angle shot over Pekka Rinne's shoulder into the roof of the net to pull the Blues within two at 4-2
David Backes put the Preds back on the man advantage at 10:03. Before the Preds could mount a scoring effort, things went the other way at 10:41 when their power play was cut short by a Steve Sullivan interference call. After the four on four expired, Andy McDonald scored on the last shot of a four shot flurry when he picked up a rebound behind Rinne for the tap in goal to bring the Blues within a goal at 4-3.
With 6:30 left Pekka Rinne took things into his own hands on a high risk play, skating past the face off circle to knock the puck away from an onrushing Blues attack. He was upended but returned to his net without facing a shot.
The Preds went back on the power play at 13:40 when Keith Tkachuk was called for interference but the Preds could not take advantage of the man advantage.
The remainder of the game involved constant back and forth skating until the Blues pulled Chris Mason with a minute remaining to bring on an extra attacker. The Blues were unable to score but did out shoot the Preds 12-4 during the final period.
Storylines of the Game
The Return of "Predator" Hockey...
After a three game losing streak, where the first two games were marked by half-hearted effort and inconsistent play, the Barry Trotz brand of Predator hockey returned. The Predators played their most complete game since the Calgary game before the Christmas holidays.
While the Preds continued to struggle on the penalty kill, giving up a goal for the 14th time in their last 15 games, they did manage to break through with a power play goal for the first time since December 17.
The primary positive from the game was the way the team continued to battle despite having a short bench due to the injuries to Klein and Erat early in the game.
Non-calls decimate Predators...
The Predators lost the services of Kevin Klein and Marty Erat on dangerous plays where no penalty was called. In the second period during a scrum around the net, Patric Hornqvist received a couple of punches to the back of the head while the official stood watching with his swallowed whistle. A penalty was finally accessed against Keith Tkachuk on a near knee on knee hit to Ryan Jones.
The Predators are already missing Jordin Tootoo and Jerred Smithson for at least a couple more weeks and will be hard pressed to continue filling voids from within the organization if the injuries to Klein and Erat are of the long term variety.
Discipline in the Midst of Hard Hitting and Frustrating Non-Calls...
The Predators played an extremely disciplined game in spite of a hard hitting affair and several plays where no calls were made that could have been distracting to the Predator effort. The Blues' first goal was partially caused by the Predators waiting for a call that did not happen when Kevin Klein went down on a questionable hit.
The Blues and Preds pounded each other on the boards with St. Louis out hitting the Predators 21-15 for the game. The Predators did not respond to several taunting type plays and took only four penalties to the Blues' seven.
The Predators will travel to Columbus for a New Year's Eve match with the Blue Jackets before returning home to play the Ducks on Saturday in the first game of a four game home stand.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass