Team suffers rare defeat at Scottrade Center, falling 6-1 in listless effort
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- It's been a while since anyone's seen this, but coach Ken Hitchcock felt it coming.
The Nashville Predators completed one of the franchise's longest trips in impressive fashion.
And they did so on one of the toughest ice surfaces for a visiting team to pick up victories.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Roman Polak (46) and Jamie Langenbrunner (right) battle
Nashville's Martin Erat (10) for the puck Tuesday night.
The Predators, who matched a franchise record with their seventh straight game away from Bridgestone Arena, won for the third time in succession by knocking off the Blues 6-1 Tuesday night at Scottrade Center. It's Nashville's first win in five tries against the Blues dating back to last season.
"This was a team loss that has been coming for a little while," Hitchcock said. "We're not competiting at the level that we need to compete at. We're allowing the other teams' competitiveness to frustrate us and it pushes us into individual hockey rather than team hockey. That's the thing we have to address. We have to become a team again, reform ourselves into a team that loves to play in these type of hard games and we looked like we were discouraged by the level out there."
Ryan Ellis, Rich Clune and Nick Spaling set the tone scoring goals in the first period, and the goal-challenged Predators, who had scored only seven times in the previous six road games, erupted against the team with the best record on home ice since the start of the 2011-12 season.
Nashville, which ended its trip 4-2-1, did to the Blues what St. Louis typically does to its opponents.
"They embarassed us the last time we played here (Jan. 24, a 3-0 Blues win)," said Predators right wing Martin Erat, who scored a goal and assisted on another.
Kevin Klein and Gabriel Bourque added their first goals of the season in the second period, Erat also scored late and Pekka Rinne stopped 31 shots for the Predators' most impressive win of the season. Colin Wilson had three assists and Jonathon Blum added two assists and Ellis added a helper.
The Blues came in 33-6-5 on home ice in the last 44 games, outscoring their opponents 133-73 in that span but were given a hard dose of reality with a Predators' onslaught.
"They were a step-and-a-half ahead of us for the whole period," Hitchcock said of Nashville's 3-0 start. "They were harder on pucks, quicker to close, checked us to death.
"They were in the form that they had played against top-level competition. They played really sound in the first period, and we were not ready for that level and we got down 3-0."
Alex Pietrangelo scored for the Blues, who allowed five goals or more at home for only the third time in the last 51 games dating back to the 2010-11 season. It's the first time since a 6-0 loss to Calgary on March 11, 2011 that the Blues allowed six goals at home.
"We take a lot of pride in this building," Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. "It seemed like that pride wasn't there tonight. We tried to do some things to get us going, but it wasn't enough. With a shortened season, every point's going to count. You can't come up flat, especially after three days off and expect to win against that team."
Added teammate David Perron: "One of our worst games in a really long time. Can't have that happen. It has to be a wake-up call for all of us.
"It's been a while we've played this bad. ... That first period was obviously not good enough at all."
The Predators had a decisive edge in play in the first period, where the Blues had been so dominant early.
"I thought we came out in the first period and did what we wanted to do," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We sort of frustrated St. Louis a little bit and we capitalized on chances. ... They usually come out flying and come out hard. Today we were fortunate to frustrate them a little bit."
Ellis started it off early, sliding a puck between Brian Elliott's pads after the puck deflected off the stick of Pietrangelo just 2:10 into the game for a 1-0 lead. It was the seventh time in nine games the Blues allowed a power-play goal and Nashville's first goal at St. Louis in the last 184:54 dating back to Matt Halischuk's goal on Dec. 30, 2011.
Clune, playing in his 22nd career game, scored his first National Hockey League goal when he poked in Wilson's one-timer that squirted through the pads of Elliott at 15:53 of the opening period.
Spaling completed the scoring in the first period when he roofed a shot over Elliott with 47 seconds to play for a 3-0 Predators lead after being all over the Blues in their zone during the shift.
It got progressively worse for the Blues and better for the Predators, who added to their lead in the second when Klein's shot from the right circle chased Elliott from the game at the 9:09 mark. Elliott allowed four goals on only 11 shots and was pulled from a start for the first time as a Blue.
Bourque made it 5-0 exactly a minute after Klein's goal, pushing the puck past Jake Allen, recalled Monday for the injured Jaroslav Halak and making his NHL debut.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Alex Pietrangelo (left) scored the Blues' lone goal. Not much else went
right in a 6-1 home loss to Nashville.
Pietrangelo got the Blues on the board with a backhand power play goal at 13:09 of the second, and the Blues outshot the Predators 14-3 in the period but were outscored 2-1. Nashville, which has been outshot 56-32 in two games in St. Louis, only had 19 shots Tuesday.
Erat scored off a rebound with 3:26 remaining to cap off a trip that lasted 15 days. Nashville will finally play at home Thursday.
For the Blues, it was not the way they anticipated starting a four-game homestand.
"I don't think we've played outstanding all year," Jackman said. "We found ways to win, but we've spotted teams a goal or two and come back.
"We've played alright and hung on, but if we were having too much confidence, especially after a good start, it's definitely a kick in the pants right now and something we've got to evaluate tomorrow and see why we did that and get better."
Added Perron: "I'm not going to try and judge anyone. We've just all got to be better."