In a game that offered a veritable smorgasbord of Thanksgiving puns and clichés, The St. Louis Blues appeared to have eaten a little less turkey than their hosts from Music City Friday night as the Bluenotes snapped the Predators seven-game win streak, 3-1, at the NashvilleGaylordEntertainmetSommetCenter Arena.
And don’t EVEN get me started on that naming rights fiasco; the Preds gave me more than enough heartburn with their lackluster play versus St. Louis. I’ll make my thoughts known on the Sommet mess later.
No, I don’t mean Marty Brodeur’s Garden State bunch; I’m talking about the inspiration for the Preds’ Black and Blue Weekend promotion: the Introduction of Nashville’s handsome new third jersey that was introduced for Friday night’s contest to the delight of the home crowd. To paraphrase of Billy Crystal’s Saturday Night Live character, Fernando, “the Preds rooked MAHVELOUS.” But begging Fernando’s pardon, dahlings, it isn’t necessarily better to look good than it is to play good. And the Blues played better – plain and simple.
The streak was bound to end soon eventually, but given the way Nashville had been playing in its own barn of late, one didn’t figure it would be this weekend – and certainly not against St. Louis. But as poetic justice would dictate, the Blues, who allowed the Predators to start the streak with a 3-1 win in St. Louis on November 12th, would ended it in their next meeting 15 days later by the same score.
St. Louis just seemed a little ‘hungrier’ than Nashville and played a tight defensive game in all three zones, limiting opportunities in a way that seemed to disarm and most certainly frustrate the home team.
Following an evenly-played but scoreless first period, the Blues turned up the pressure another couple notches in the second, finally breaking through with 1:25 remaining in the stanza, as Brad Boyes scored on an off-angle shot that Preds goalie Pekka Rinne admitted afterwards he thought he should have stopped.
“Those soft goals always seem to end up costing you the game,” Rinne said in a post-game interview. “I was cheating maybe just a little for the pass. I didn’t think he was going to shoot from that angle.”
Whether or not the Boyes goal was a softie, it seemed to hit the as Preds hard as it energized their opponents. The Blues came out buzzing in the third, sandwiching a pair of goals exactly nine minutes apart from T.J. Oshie, at 6:35 and ex-Predator Paul Kariya, at 15:23, to neutralize Nashville’s lone marker by forward Dave Scatchard at 13:25.
To be sure, all credit should go to Terry Murphy’s team, who had pretty much slogged through the same type of performance on the front end of this streak a few weeks ago as the Preds suffered in this game.
And speaking of ex-Preds, a hearty bare-head rub-a-dub-dub is due to Blues’ netminder, Chris Mason for this one. He was outstanding once again versus his old mates, and save for Scatchard’s somewhat fortunate out-of-mid-air shot in front that bounced high, off and over Mace’s glove into the goal, would have registered his second shutout against Nashville. Since being traded to St. Louis at the beginning of last season, Chris Mason’s goals-against average versus the Preds is a microscopic .960 in six meetings.
The Preds catch somewhat of a break tonight, missing their most accomplished expatriate goaltender, Thomas Vokoun, as he sits out the game for the visiting Florida Panthers. It will be a battle of the backups as Pekka Rinne will also take a seat in favor of Dan Ellis as both teams play the second of back-to-back contests. Scott Clemmensen will be in goal for the Panthers.
Florida, like St. Louis is no gimme, and likewise has been a much better team on the road this season, so the last thing Nashville needs is to take them lightly. The Preds need to come out strong, keep driving the net, and above all, bury their chances, especially on the power play, which surprisingly (for them) has been a tremendous strength of late.
And it could be said that their inability to cash in on their ample man-advantage opportunities Friday night was their ultimate downfall, as they went 0-6 on the PP versus St. Louis.
In this second game of Black and Blue Weekend, Nashville will strive to be the one the giving – rather than the receiving – the business end of that moniker.
It’s time to talk turkey again – instead of playing like one.