Jaroslav Halak played flawless hockey in goal and David Backes provided all the scoring as the St Louis Blues defeated the Nashville Predators 2-0 at the Scottrade Center on Boxing Day. Halak stopped all 32 Predator shots in getting his fifth shutout of the season.
Pekka Rinne was the hard luck loser, making one mistake and stopping 24 of the 25 Blues’ shots.
The Predators had plenty of chances but were unable to get the puck past Halak, who was clearly the star of the game. The loss is the fourth in a row for the Preds, who had won eight of nine before the streak began.
The Predators began the game looking out of sync and low on energy much as in their last three losses. But by the end of the first period, they looked a bit better and actually outshot the Blues, 12-11.
Backes started the second period with an unassisted goal at 1:15 after Cody Franson turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Backes skated in to the left of Rinne and wristed it into the top of the net to put the Blues ahead 1-0. It was a goal Rinne should have stopped but he really can’t be faulted for the loss.
For the second period, the Preds played some better than the way they started but still could not find the net. Nashville out shot the Blues, 12-8. Through two periods, neither team landed in the penalty box.
The Predators seemed more desperate in the third period. Halak held firm in the Blues net and withstood a barrage of chances from the Preds just past the 8:00 mark. The first penalty of the game came at 15:13 when Joel Ward was called for tripping Carlo Colaiacovo in the Preds offensive zone. The Preds had a short-handed shot while holding firm on the Blues’ man advantage.
Backes put the game on ice at 19:43 when Alex Steen grabbed a loose puck and sent it off the boards toward the Predator empty net. Backes won a race with Cal O’Reilly and nudged the puck int the net to give the Blues a 2-0 lead and the win.
The Predators led in shots in the third 8-7 and outshot the Blues, 32-26. The Predators were improved in the faceoff circle winning 32 out of 56 draws after struggling in three of the last four games.
Nashville started the game without the services of Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, David Legwand and Matthew Lombardi.
Linus Klasen was recalled from Milwaukee before the game. Klasen was plugged into Erat’s spot beside Marcel Goc and Sergei Kostitsyn. Klassen received his most extensive playing time in the NHL with 20 shifts for a total of 16:21 in ice time. He had one shot and one hit to show for the effort.
The Predators returned home after the game and will face the Dallas Stars on Tuesday at the Bridgestone Arena.