Riding a three-game winning streak, the Nashville Predators came into Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues looking to make it a weekend sweep over division rivals. After a strong first period from both teams, St. Louis took control in the second and never looked back, dominating Nashville in a 4-1 victory.
“I thought Pekka played pretty good,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “I can’t fault him on any of those goals; we left him out to try a couple of times. I thought he played well for going back to back nights. We have some guys who showed their fatigue.”
The first period began as most games do between the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues: Hard-nosed, physical hockey. Both teams exchanged chances, but both Pekka Rinne and Ryan Miller were up to task in net, making saves to bail their respective teams out of scoring chances by the other.
The strong play from the Predators slowly dissolved as the period continued. In what was a misplay at the blue-line by Rich Clune, Patrik Berglund picked up the loose puck, drove in and wristed in his 13th goal of the season at 11:32.
“They [the Blues] check well,” said Barry Trotz on St. Louis forcing turnovers. “They take away your time and space. They come through you physically. St. Louis is really good at countering and there’s a reason that they’re 35 games over .500. They’re a good hockey team.”
Immediately following the goal, Viktor Stalberg was in the corner in the offensive zone when he was boarded by Berglund. With the referee’s arm up, Clune came in to defend his teammate, throwing punches at Berglund. The board meeting in the corner resulted in a four-minute double minor for roughing for Clune and a two-minute boarding and two-minute roughing call for Berglund. The teams would play at even strength throughout the penalties.
Both teams would continue to exchange chances throughout the remainder of the first period, but neither were able to score. At the end of the first, the Predators led the Blues in shots 9-8.
It didn’t take long for St. Louis to take the 2-0 lead. On a reach pass by Steve Ott, Patrik Berglund tallied his second of the night during a two-on-one break and there was little that defenseman Ryan Ellis could do to stop the goal. The goal at 2:02 of the second gave Berglund 14 on the season.
During the face off following the goal, Rich Clune and Ryan Reaves decided it was time to drop the gloves for a bout. Both men exchanged punches, but in the end, it was Reaves that came up on the winning end of the fight.
The third goal for the Blues was a bad bounce for the Predators. Vladimir Tarasenko knocked in a puck from T.J. Oshie that had been shot in off the end boards and recoiled to the side of the net. The goal, scored at 7:21 of the second, was Tarasenko’s 21st of the season and would tie him with David Backes and Jaden Schwartz for second on the team in goals behind Alexander Steen.
Nashville went on their first power play of the night when Barret Jackman took a cross-checking penalty at 10:19. During the entirety of the power play, the Predators were never able to get in sync. Nashville consistently lost control of the puck in the offensive zone and Shea Weber broke a stick on a slap shot attempt. Overall, St. Louis completely dominated while on the penalty kill.
“I think we just mismanaged the puck a little bit,” said Roman Josi. “We didn’t make sharp passes and didn’t hit the passes tape-to-tape. They have a good penalty kill. We have to be better on the power play.”
After the power play expired, the Predators took a penalty of their own, when Paul Gaustad was called for holding at 12:49. Nashville killed off the penalty, but the Blues certainly had their fair share of chances.
The game had been completely dominated by St. Louis until the Predators finally got on the board late in the third. After a flurry in front of Ryan Miller, Eric Nystrom scored his 13th of the season with assists from Colton Sissons and Paul Gaustad at 16:50. On that scoring play, Sissons tallied his second point of his NHL career.
“He’s a smart hockey player,” said Barry Trotz on Colton Sissons and his development so far. “He manages the puck pretty good. He got schooled by a veteran player when he was entering the zone and he was looking to shoot the puck and he dropped it to their player creating an odd man rush. But he’s a smart player and that won’t happen to him again, I’m sure.”
Going into the second intermission, Nashville finished with strong play and shots were close to even with the Predators at 21 and the Blues at 22.
At 5:33 of the third, the Predators were again put on the power play when Ian Cole took a delay of game penalty as he flipped the puck over the glass. Even though Nashville did not score on the power play, they controlled the puck much better than on the first and created multiple scoring chances.
Any momentum that that Predators may have had in the third period was quickly wiped away when Alexander Steen fired in his 30th goal of the season at 8:05 from the face off dot to the left of Pekka Rinne.
With 8:18 remaining in the third, Nashville was given another opportunity to get back into the game by going on the power play. Vladimir Sobotka was called for slashing to give the Predators the man advantage. Unable to get set up on while on the power play, Nashville squandered another opportunity and the Blues killed off the penalty.
The remainder of the third saw St. Louis trying to play keep away and shut down defense as the Predators were never able to muster many quality scoring chances to finish the game, losing 4-1. Up next for Nashville are the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.
“It’s a huge game,” said Roman Josi on the upcoming game against Edmonton. “We need some points. The Oilers have some good forwards and they’re a skill team. They have a lot of speed. We need to rest from this back-to-back, go out and practice hard and prepare for the other games.”
Roman Josi post game interview:
Below is video from Barry Trotz talking about the defensive lapses, trust in the young defense and development of Colton Sissons.