Blues fall 4-2; Klein game-winner comes late in third period
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When Jason Arnott brought the life back into Scottrade Center Saturday night, the roof was about to explode.
But before the 19,150 that packed into Scottrade Center could get back into their seats, it was utter disbelief.
The tie game evaporated and the Nashville Predators, the youngest team in the league, won for the second time in as many nights to start the season, doubling up the Blues 4-2 Saturday night and spoil the Blues' season-opener.
Kevin Klein's go-ahead goal snapped a 2-all tie, a goal that beat Jaroslav Halak on the near side with 6 minutes 46 seconds to play and spoiled the start to what is being deemed a promising season for the Blues.
Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak gets beat by a Kevin Klein shot in the third
period as defenseman Nikita Nikitin looks on. The goal gave Nashville a
lead and the Predators spoiled the Blues' home opener, 4-2.
"It's hard to play against this team, and they showed it again tonight. We stuck with the game plan, tied it up, but they came right back. Let's take the positives into the next game and I'm pretty sure everybody will be better."
Klein added, "(Nikitin) tried to block a shot, so I just tried to fake it, go around (Halak) and managed to sneak it above his pad.
"They were definitely taking it to us, and Peks held us strong ... as he always does when we get running around. We're still trying to fugure things out."
Halak, who only saw 15 shots, was outdueled by Pekka Rinne, who stopped 31 shots in a game the Blues were also beaten by their special teams. Nashville scored twice on four opportunities and the Blues got one goal on five tries.
"We're not going to look at this game as anything other than an opportunity gone by, and we've got to get better tomorrow," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "(Halak) is a part of that, the power play is a part of that ... all of our guys are part of that. Not going to separate anybody and get ourselves spun into a spot that we can't get out of. Got to get better tomorrow."
The Predators now march home to open up another building -- their own. But with two wins in as many nights in hand, it'll be a happy homecoming.
"Two division opponents and go into their barns and winning is huge on the road," said Preds center David Legwand, who scored twice and assisted on another. "Weathering the storm obviously had to do that off the bat. It's big for our team and our confidence right now."
Nashville (2-0-0) went into Columbus Friday, playing with five rookies in their lineup, and downed the Jackets before bouncing the Blues.
Craig Smith, playing in his first two NHL games, now has two goals and two assists after a goal and two assists against the Blues.
He's part of a line with Legwand and Colin Wilson. That line accounted for eight points Saturday night.
"They're learning on the fly," Legwand said. "Smitty and Willy, they're young kids with a lot of energy. That's a huge thing obviously.
"They're getting the go-ahead with the coach and coach (Barry Trotz) is letting them go out there and they're playing hard. That's what we need. They keep learning and they're asking questions and that's what we need. The more they do it, the better they're going to be down the road."
Rinne, who has been battling the flu this past week, was sharp, particularly in the third period, out-dueling Halak, who had unbeatable numbers against the Predators last season, going 4-1-1 with a 1.14 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.
"I think he shut us out three times last year, which is impressive," said Klein. "They block a lot of shots for him, but he's a good goaltender. With him, I think we just have to get traffic, which we seemed to do tonight."
Jason Arnott (left) is congratulated by teammate Alex Pietrangelo after
scoring the tying goal against his former team Saturday night.
The Blues gave their raucous crowd a big boost when Patrik Berglund put the home side up 1-0, converting T.J. Oshie's feed from behind the goal. But Nashville, which took advantage of its power play chances, scored twice with the man advantage. Smith and Legwand, whose goal in the third broke a 1-1 tie, helped the Preds go 2-for-4 with the man advantage.
"Special teams are huge," said Smith, who broke Halak's shutout streak against the Predators at 171:55. "We made an adjustment on the power play."
Arnott's power play goal 12:17 into the third came at an opportune time, as the fans were awaiting to erupt. The former Predator gave his new fans life. But Klein's game-winner quickly took the air right back out of the building.
"We had a good shift following that," Oshie said. "A little miscommunication in the d-zone. I believe I was screening Jaro. I don't know if he even saw it. It's a tough break. Something we've got to clean up."
* NOTES -- The Blues lost defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo with 6:44 left in the second period and he did not return when he went hard into the back boards after having his skates taken from underneath him by Blake Geoffrion, who picked up a two-minute tripping penalty. Colaiacovo, who the Blues say will be evaluated today, has had a history of injuries throughout his career. He missed a couple days in the preseason with a chest injury. But he walked out and appeared to look fine from the building Saturday night.
... Nashville played the game without Martin Erat, who sat out after playing the opener Friday in Columbus with an upper-body injury, believed to be his back.
... A touching moment before the game included a video tribute and moment of silence for the hockey players of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, who were killed in a tragic plane crash en route to their first game of the season. Those players included former Blues Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev as well as former Preds players Josef Vasicek and Karlis Skrastins as well as Preds draft pick Robert Dietrich. Also, former Pred Wade Belak was honored. Belak retired from the NHL after the 2010-11 season.
... Halak's overal shutout streak ended at 114:55.
... During pre-game introductions, Blues forward David Perron (post-concussion symdrome may have received the loudest ovation of all.
"That's was unbelievable ... that's our fans," Perron said moments after the player introductions were made before Saturday's regular-season opener. "Our fans care a lot about our players, but I didn't expect it to be like that and I thank them."
Perron is slowly working his way into the lineup and said he's started skating regularly.
"It's been going good ... somewhat a little better than I expected," Perron said. "I'm going out there and pushing a little bit more. There haven't been any setbacks so far, so that's the good part.
"We'll see how that goes," he said. "It's impossible to put a date on when I'll be back or when I'll be practicing with the team ... it's up in the air. For now, I just want to thank the fans for their support. They showed it tonight."