The Nashville Predators went to St. Louis and left with their biggest win to date while their goalie left with a new record to his name.
Black Friday meant a full day & night of NHL action. Perhaps no game was bigger for future developments than the Nashville Predators heading to St. Louis to take on the Blues. It would be the first time the two teams met since last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Predators saw the Blues off after six hard-fought games. Tonight’s game promised to be no different.
The Nashville Predators push the pace of play early & it doesn’t take long to pay dividends. Ryan Johansen scores the first goal 2:32 into the game. Filip Forsberg extends his points streak to seven with an assist, P.K. Subban gets credited as well.
Blues goalie Carter Hutton is seeing a lot of live action. Viktor Arvidsson‘s sliding around out there like he’s me at the bar. Ryan Johansen trips Oskar Sundqvist & sends St. Louis on the power play 5 minutes in. Blues get a good chance in a scrum in front of the net but Pekka holds them off. Johansen nearly makes a big play right out of the box, dude is active tonight. Scoring goals, tripping guys, whatever it takes.
Blues go back on the PP due to too many Predators on the ice. Kevin Fiala serves the penalty at 8:22. Nice clearing by Rinne, he sends it right down to Hutton. Predators kill the PP without incident. Some pretty sloppy play going on here. Anthony Bitetto‘s slipping on the ice, Fiala’s losing track of the puck. Both squads get chances late in the period but we’re at 1-0 after 1. The Blues didn’t show a whole lot this period, but you figure they’ll turn it on pretty soon. Nashville needs to tighten it up.
The Blues come out ready to go, and Mattias Ekholm makes a couple of huge defensive plays to keep the Blues out of the scoring column in the first minute. After that brief period of activity neither team gets much of anything done for several minutes. Is it great defense on both ends, or inability on offense? Playoff atmosphere is what Chris Mason is selling us on television. The Blues are getting more chances here in the second but aren’t doing anything with them.
Things open up a little bit towards the end of the period, with both teams getting good chances. Bitetto allegedly commits a hold on Dmitrij Jaskin at 17:29 into the 2nd & the Blues get a power play. Ekholm & Colton Sissons nearly combine for a short-handed goal, but just miss. The Predators kill the PP, and Craig Smith nearly gets a goal as the period ends, but it’s not to be.
Blues fans really hate it when the Predators defenders stall behind the net with the puck. Blues with a couple of good shots knocked away by Pekka. Some icing from Nashville leads to Rinne making the save on a Vladimir Tarasenko shot. St. Louis is dominating puck possession here & looking like they’re about to tie it. Predators finally get a chance going when Johansen & Arvidsson go down low & Hutton makes a stupid crazy save. The puck was sitting on the ice right in front of the net for a second & it gets cleared out. Dang.
Both teams trade chances but it’s still nothing doing. The crowd’s really into it. The Nashville dads are into it too. Kyle Turris & Craig Smith nearly get one on a charge, and of course it’s Ekholm making a big play on the other end to bail the Predators out.
Carter Hutton leaves the ice with 2 minutes left & it’s 6 on 5. Predators have been good on face-offs all night and they really need one now. Roman Josi takes a couple of shots at the empty net from the other end. Rinne catches one on a bounce with 1:07 left. Predators keep winning face-offs & keep icing the puck. They finally get one to go, as Austin Watson gets an empty net goal with an assist from Johansen.
We’re still going & Arvidsson goes off the post on the empty net. It’s all good though, as Pekka clinches the shutout & the Predators get a huge road win in St. Louis! Beating the top team in the conference in their barn is always a good time.
Steve’s Stars of the Game
Third Star: Mattias Ekholm
No points tonight for Mattias Ekholm, but he did everything else the Nashville Predators could have asked for. He was constantly down in the defensive zone making the plays keeping the Blues on their heels. He’s the best partner Roman Josi or P.K. Subban or Ryan Ellis can ask for.
Second Star: Ryan Johansen
Ryan Johansen got a variation of a Gordie Howe hat trick: one goal, one assist, one penalty. There’s probably a name for this. He also won fourteen out of seventeen face-offs, which was a key factor in keeping the Blues from getting anything going on offense. Three goals & six assists in the last seven games. Remember the early-season slump? I remember saying multiple times that he would get out of it, and here we are.
First Star: Pekka Rinne
You get the shutout on the road against the highest ranked team in the Western Conference & you get the first star. Thirty-four saves tonight. Pekka Rinne‘s been playing a lot lately & I see the chatter saying that he needs a rest. When he’s playing like this, you let him ride.
The Nashville Predators’ Fathers Trip wraps up in Raleigh, North Carolina on Sunday afternoon. The Carolina Hurricanes got off to a slow start but seem to be turning it around just in time for former Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette‘s annual visit. The puck will drop at 1:00 PM ET/12:00 PM CT. Fox Sports Tennessee & 102.5 The Game will provide television & radio coverage.