All it took was one goal with 1:05 left in regulation for the Nashville Predators’ four-game win streak to come to an end.
With severe weather incoming to the Nashville area, the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues faced each other in the first game back following the All Star break. It wasn’t as full of goals, fisticuffs and exhilaration as one might have thought there would be between these division rivals. Rust seemed a little evident by both teams early on, and each team took three penalties in the game. In such a low-scoring game, much of the pressure falls on the defense and goaltender to keep the game tight and, obviously, prevent the opposition from scoring.
“It’s tough, they have a couple good players out there, so you just have to play hard and try to play tight,” said defenseman Petter Granberg. “We were going for two points, that’s it.
Aside from a few chances by each team during the first two periods, the game was fairly uneventful. It wasn’t until the third period that quality scoring chances happened for both teams. In the third, the Blues outshot the Predators 12-5 after only putting up 11 shots in the first and second periods combined. One highlight that stands out in regards to defensive play is that Carl Gunnarsson of the Blues blocked seven shots in the game. One of those was a Shea Weber slap shot near the end of the second period that left him reeling.
On a more positive note, Nashville has now killed off 23 straight penalties. For a unit that has seen its struggles this season, that is certainly a step in the right direction for special teams. Defensively, the Predators played a fairly tight game throughout the night. It was just a mistake here and there that allowed the Blues to take advantage.
“We had played a pretty good game defensively up until that point,” said head coach Peter Laviolette. “It was the mistakes that we made with the puck that led them to some offense and chances were low on both sides. We wanted to keep playing the game that was smart and doing the right thing. We had a few opportunities to get the puck out before they scored. We didn’t get it done and stayed in the zone, we got caught on a long shift and a shot that’s probably foot to two feet wide of the net hits shin guard and goes in.”
While Granberg continues to get acclimated on being a regular NHLer, the pairings have shuffled, but he’s spent most of his time of late being paired with fellow Swede Mattias Ekholm. Splitting a good pairing in Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm isn’t optimal, but it gives Barret Jackman a mobile defenseman to skate with in Ellis, and has certainly helped Granberg in adjusting.
“Oh yeah, he’s a good player,” Granberg said on Ekholm. “He helps me a lot out there and talks to me. I like to play with him.”
Next up on this four-game home stand are the Philadelphia Flyers, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and have won two in a row. The Predators must take advantage of the eight home games they have in February if they want to keep pace with the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. Now that the All Star Game has passed, the focus is on the second half of the season and finishing strong unlike last season.
“We just have to get back to winning some games,” said Granberg. “It was a tough loss today. We have a new game in two days. We just recover and get back to it.”