Blues squeak past Preds, 2-1

Outshot 30-15 and outworked by the Predators, the St. Louis Blues found a way to steal two points in Nashville on Wednesday night. Their 2-1 shootout victory was their second in Nashville this season in what was their last trip to the Music City in 2010-11.

The Blues didn’t waste any time getting on the board; in fact, the fans weren’t even settled in when Andy McDonald put them up 1-0 just nine seconds into the game. The puck took a weird bounce off Kevin Klein’s stick and elevated over Pekka Rinne’s glove shoulder.

Barry Trotz and company did not let that early strike affect them, though. The Preds surrendered just four shots the rest of the period, killed a couple key power plays, and had some nice pressure on Jaroslav Halak in the later stages.

Similarly to the Blues’ quick start in the first, it took just 22 seconds in the second for Nashville to tie the game. Jerred Smithson banged home a Joel Ward rebound, a bad one let up by Halak.

There was a much faster pace to the second and the Preds were tremendous five-on-five. Between the first and second periods, the Blues went almost 20 minutes without a shot.

The final frame was a chess match tilted in Nashville’s favor, but they just couldn’t get a puck past Halak. They squandered a couple man advantage opportunities and didn’t capitalize on a flurry at the end of regulation.

Overtime was much of the same back-and-forth action with no true threats on either side.

McDonald – in the fifth round – slipped home the eventual shootout winner through Rinne’s five-hole. All five Nashville shooters shot just wide, aiming at Halak’s glove side each time.

The win was the third in a row for St. Louis after a funk earlier in the month. Meanwhile, the Preds dropped their second straight to division opponents, and scoring just two goals in the last three games.

Post-Game Ponderings:
– A silver lining the Preds can take away from this game is the penalty kill, as they killed two penalties while down 1-0 in the first. The PK has been stellar in the last four games (15-for-15).
– On the other end of the spectrum, special teams wise, the man advantage has struggled all year long. If you take out the first three games of the season, the Preds’ power play is 3-for-60. It currently ranks 29th in the league. Tonight, Trotz tried different personnel, but the results were the same.
– Jerred Smithson’s line was great tonight in both ends. Smithson won 12 of 17 faceoffs and had a team-high six hits. He has filled in nicely for the banged up David Legwand.
– In his first game back from a two-game hiatus, Ryan Suter logged 26:31 of ice-time – a great sign.
– The Preds were 3-0 in shootouts coming into tonight, but couldn’t pull out a fourth one.
– This was the fifth overtime game in eight home games this season for Nashville.
– In their only national televised game on Versus for the duration of this season, 16,603 were in attendance for this one.

Post-Game Quotes:
– Barry Trotz on offensive struggles:
“The biggest mistake that the Nashville Predators make is when we say we have to score lots of goals. All of a sudden we’re non-Predator like and we’ll lose 6-4, or something like that, and that’s not the way we need to play. Our identity is that we play solid team defense as a group and piggyback some of our offense off of that and become a hard team to play. When we do that, we’re hard to beat.”

– Barry Trotz on the penalty kill:
“The PK’s done a real good job. What you need is everything to complement everything. Right now we’re not getting any goals on the power play, but the PK is keeping us in.”

– Jerred Smithson on his goal:
“It was just a great play by Wardo, driving wide and getting the puck on net. We work on that in practice, shooting for rebounds if you don’t have a great chance. I was coming down the middle and it came right to my stick and popped it in.”

– Jerred Smithson on the penalty kill:
“It’s been better… we’ve still got some work to do, but it has been better. We’re starting to get real comfortable with each other and our system and believing in it, and I think that’s the main thing.”

– Cody Franson on the game:
“I thought we played a pretty solid game for the most part. When you can keep a team to 15 shots, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win. We definitely did that tonight but came up short.”

Final Thoughts:
This was a game that Nashville deserved to win. They outshot the Blues by 15, controlled the five-on-five play, and had a lot more chances. But they were shut down by Halak, who has played well against the Preds this season. It has to be tough for Trotz and company to be dropping these games inside a very tough Central Division.

The Preds have a back-to-back this weekend where they travel to Minnesota for a matinee on Friday, followed by their annual meeting with the Rangers at home on Saturday.


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