Sunday, March 16, 2014

Blues stay hot in front of home fans on road with 4-1 win

Berglund scores twice, Steen nets 30th in victory against
Predators in front of thousands of St. Louis fans who made trip

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's listed as a road game for the Blues. Road game No. 34 to be exact.

Someone forgot to tell the throngs of thousands of Blues fans that made the trek to The Volunteer State on Saturday night, with 'Let's Go Blues' chants echoing off the walls of Bridgestone Arena.

The Blues used that "home crowd advantage" to their benefit and sent Blues fans pouring onto Broadway St. happy. 'LGB' was out in full force.

The player who most took advantage of the fan showing: Patrik Berglund.
(St. Louis Blues)
Steve Ott (second from right) and Jay Bouwmeester (right) move up the
ice during Saturday's contest against the Nashville Predators.

Berglund's two goals propelled the "visiting" Blues to a 4-1 win against the Predators, sweeping the season series from Nashville for the first time in franchise history.

The Blues (46-14-7) now have 99 points, two ahead of the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Presidents' Trophy after winning their seventh in eight (7-0-1) and fifth in a row on the road. The Blues also improved to 19-0-2 in games against the Central Division, which continues a franchise record. And the five wins against the same opponent in the same season without a loss is the most since 1969-70 when the Blues were 8-0 against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blues improved to 37-1-5 when scoring first, 26-0-3 when leading after one and 29-0-4 when leading after two.

But feats and records aside, this one belongs to Blues fans, who began to invade Music City Friday afternoon and completely took control of the city by Saturday afternoon.

"It was amazing," Berglund said. "It felt more like a home game. After I woke up from my nap, I even heard 'Let's Go Blues' from the bars."

'Let's Go Blues' or commonly known on Twitter as #LGB, began the moment Blues fans hit the Nashville city limits.

"The fans in the past have always made a weekend trip to come down to games, but to see that many people rooting for the Blues ... you can hear the chants when you're in the hotel 'Let's Go Blues,'" it's pretty neat to see," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "The last few weeks, you hear people around town saying, 'I can't wait for that Nashville trip.' You kind of put it in the back of your mind and you see people roaming around with (David) Backes, (T.J.) Oshie, the new (Ryan) Miller and (Steve) Ott jerseys ... just to see the Blues fever and how widespread it is, it's exciting.

"We're sitting there right before warmup and you can hear through the doors to the locker room the 'Let's Go Blues' chant. ... I thought we had a very spirited effort."

In light of the effort, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who tied Andy Murray for third on the all-time franchise coaching wins list with 118, had a suggestion for the National Hockey League brass.

"I think we've got a fierce following and we were talking about it ... could you imagine if these two cities ever played an outdoor game here," Hitchcock said, "with the ability to walk to the stadium and everything like that. It would be an incredible atmosphere and there's a great city-to-city rivalry. It would be a fun place to play.

"... This has always been one of the toughest buildings in the West on Saturday nights. To see a lot of Blues sweaters there was really gratifying." 

Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues, as did Alexander Steen, who along with his father Thomas became the third father/son combo in NHL history (Bobby and Brett Hull as well as Ken Hodge and Ken Hodge Jr.) to score 30 goals in a season.

Thomas Steen scored a career-high 30 goals for the Winnipeg Jets during the 1984-85 season.

"That'll be nice to chat about after the season's over and especially when the career's over, you look back on things like that," Steen said. "Right now, it's another goal."

Berglund's 13th of the season put the Blues ahead 1-0 at 11:32 of the first period.

Berglund picked off an errant pass from Mattias Ekholm and outmuscled Colton Sissons before beating Pekka Rinne with a wrister from the left circle.

"I think I've been playing the same way, I've been shooting the puck," Berglund said. "Now it's finding its way in. It's obviously nice."

Berglund made it 2-0 with his sixth in eight games after being sprung with a backhand pass by Steve Ott into a 2-on-1 with Brenden Morrow. Berglund kept the puck and fired one through the pads of Rinne 2:02 into the second.

"He's playing extremely well," Ott said of Berglund. "He's got a great release for a big man. He's very smart. He makes the game easy when you're playing with a guy like that."

Tarasenko gave the Blues a 3-0 lead when he was able to bat a falling puck past Rinne from a sharp angle on the short side at 7:21, his ninth point in nine career games against the Predators and ninth point in the past eight games (three goals).

The Predators (29-29-10) got one back when Eric Nystrom finally beat Miller on an extended play in the Blues zone with 3:10 left in the second to make it interesting at 3-1. But Steen wired a one-timer from the right circle after another Nashville giveaway 8:05 into the third to quiet the home crowd and give the plethora of visiting fans something more to cheer about.
(St. Louis Blues)
Goalie Ryan Miller is congratulated by teammate Barret Jackman after the
Blues downed the Nashville Predators 4-1 Saturday night.

"The 'D' kind of fell back pretty quick," Steen said. "I just hit the brakes and Schwartzy made a great pass." 

Oh and if that wasn't enough, Ryan Miller improved to 6-0-1 in his Blues career after stopping 30 shots. He's stopped 164 of 176 shots.

"Mills was really good ... they had a five-minute run there in the second period," Hitchcock said. "He was good then and they had a little push on the power play in the third. 

"Nashville's hard to play against because you might beat them, but you're never going to outwork them. You have to have your mind right to play against Nashville."

The Blues played right, and their fans cheered right.

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