The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues had met four times this season with the Preds picking up victories in every game. The odds finally caught up with Nashville on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena when the Blues picked up a 3-2 win in a shootout.
The Predators came out with plenty of jump for the first four minutes of the game but a Blues goal by Chris Stewart, 4:13 into the contest, appeared to put a damper on the Predators' enthusiasm for the remainder of the opening period.
Coach Barry Trotz was not pleased with the effort in the opening period. "I thought our start wasn’t good today, and one of the things I believe in is that good teams in this league demand a certain level of work, a certain level of detail, and a certain level of physicality to beat them"
"In the first period, against Vancouver (on Tuesday) and this game, we weren’t as ready for that as we needed to be."
After being out-shot 13-6 in the opening period, the Predators owed plenty of gratitude to goalie Pekka Rinne who kept the game at 1-0.
It was almost like a different team on the ice for the remainder of the contest after the first intermission. "I thought the second and third periods we were fine," Trotz continued. "I think they had 13 shots after the first period, and I think they had 10 or 11 the rest of the game."
Roman Josi's first goal since December 22, 2:53 into the second period, added the spark that the Predators needed to compete. Josi described the play, "One of guys (Halischuk) chipped it out on the boards. I just saw an opening and that nobody was back and just tried to join the rush. Yip made a great pass."
Colin Wilson made a great play in the middle of the period that gave the Predators a 2-1 lead. He single-handedly fought off a Blues defender and flipped a backhander past Jaroslav Halak that he never reacted to.
Wilson commented, "Goalies never know where the puck’s going after a backhand shot. They can’t read it very well."
Unfortunately, the Predators gave up a quick goal to Vladmir Sobotka 34 seconds later to let the Blues tie the game 2-2 where it would remain through overtime.
The Predators best chance to win came late in overtime when Josi almost picked up his second goal of the night on a bang-bang play on the rush at the Blues net. "That was a great pass by Marty (Erat)," Josi explained. "I just couldn’t handle it right. I tried to tip it right in, but I just couldn’t handle it. It was a quick play."
Trotz kept up his tradition of not watching the shooters in the skills competition after overtime. "When it goes to the shootout, it’s anybody’s game," Trotz lamented. "I don’t really have any comment because I don’t watch it. I have to pick different people (in the crowd). They were telling me if they were scoring or not so I knew right away."
For the third time in their last eight games, the Predators lost the shootout when they failed to put a puck in the net.
In spite of the Preds picking up nine of ten points in the season series, Nashville still trails the Blues by four points in the Western Conference standings. "Obviously, we’re still trying to catch them," Trotz explained. By giving up a point, that’s the disappointing thing. We feel we could have been better a little bit, especially after the first period, and that’s a good thing in terms of where we need to go."
"St. Louis is a solid team; they’re well coached, and that’s two heavyweights going at it toe-to-toe. In the end, it’s done by the judges almost. It’s a draw. You go to the scorecards."
The Predators will practice on Friday at Centennial Sportsplex at 11 a.m. Trotz explained one agenda item that the team will see. "Put it this way, well have a shootout tomorrow. That’s what we’ll do. That’s where we can get points. We went through a stretch where we were pretty good in the shootouts, and in the last few shootouts we haven’t done as well."
The Predators will play the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena and close out the homestand on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass