Thursday, November 13, 2014

Oshie's return, Stastny's game-winner help Blues top Predators

Goal with 5:54 remaining was difference in 4-3 
victory; STL Line contributes another five points

ST. LOUIS -- After having success to begin the season, Paul Stastny was derailed by a shoulder injury that sidelined him for seven games.

He's been back for four games, including Thursday against the Nashville Predators, and prior to the game, he had no points.

The Blues have relied on the "STL Line" for their scoring for much of the season.

Although Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera combined for five points Thursday in a 4-3 victory against the Nashville Predators, the Blues got key contributions from some of their other top players.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Paul Stastny (26) gets congratulated by teammates after scoring in the
third period to help the Blues defeat the Nashville Predators 4-3.

The result thrust the Blues back into first place in the Central Division.

Stastny's tiebreaking goal with 5:54 remaining in the third period helped the Blues defeat the Predators. 

Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, and Lehtera and Schwartz combined for three assists. The line has 30 points in the past seven games, but Stastny's first point in four games since returning from a shoulder injury proved to be crucial.

"I'm just trying to help the team out," Stastny said. "It's been a weird start for me with the first game taking that knee and then I kind of hurt my shoulder. I knew before the season it was going to take a while to kind of get used to guys, get used to systems and sometimes, you tend to overthink out there instead of playing. That's part of it, and I've got to take more responsibility for stuff like that.

"It's a win. That's the most important thing, especially first place. I know it's early. That's a good team over there. We battled out a win, which was huge for us." 

Stastny's second goal of the season, a redirection of a Kevin Shattenkirk wrist shot from the right point between the pads of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, broke a 3-3 tie after Stastny won the faceoff in the Nashville zone. 

"You just try to take a better angle and come a little higher for reasons like that just because even if I do tip it, it's going to create a rebound if it doesn't go in," Stastny said. "Sometimes you get too caught up in just trying to get in front of the net. These D-men are so big, if you try to get too close to the goalie, it just takes away your complete angle. 

"When you have shooters like that with Gunny and Shatty, they take that snap shot and are just looking for a stick instead of taking a slap shot. You've got to give them credit."

T.J. Oshie, who was activated from injured reserve after missing seven games with a consussion, scored his first goal of the season for St. Louis, and Gunnarsson had a goal and an assist. 

Jake Allen made 22 saves for the Blues (11-4-1), who won for the ninth time in the past 10 games and avenged a 2-1 loss to the Predators (10-4-2) here Saturday. 

Oshie was cleared earlier in the day by doctors to resume playing after being injured Oct. 28 against the Dallas Stars. He was slotted on a line with David Backes and Patrik Berglund and played 22 minutes, 58 seconds.

"I felt good," Oshie said. "Once I got the first couple shifts under me, it felt better but it was good. Both teams played hard [Thursday]. It was a good battle; I think it was a good game to come back in. Improve from here and keep getting better."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock felt Oshie's insertion in the lineup was a big boost.

"He really helped us tonight," Hitchcock said. "He came back in, it was a hard game. He played a lot of minutes and came back in and gave us what we needed. It was a big help for us.

"I know he kind of tired towards the end. I don't blame him for that because he really hasn't had many game practices. He'll be a little tired (Friday), but it was good to see him help. I thought that line was outstanding for us."

"Bergy had his best game I've seen for a long time," Hitchcock added. "He was really controlling things and he was a real good player. This was two or three games in a row where Bergy moved up another level. It's a good sign."

Nashville's Filip Forsberg had a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to seven games (13 points), Roman Josi had a goal and two assists, and Shea Weber had a goal and an assist. 

Rinne made 23 saves for the Predators, who had a three-game winning streak end despite rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits. Coach Peter Laviolette was trying for his 400th NHL victory.

"Our guys played hard, but we didn't win the game," Laviolette said. "They competed and they fought but we came out on the wrong side. 

"Any time you come back from a deficit, it's difficult and we did it a couple of times."  

Oshie put the Blues ahead 1-0 when his wrist shot from the point beat a screened Rinne 3:25 into the first period. Tarasenko and Lehtera got the assists, each extending his point streak. Tarasenko has five goals and 11 points in a seven-game streak, and Lehtera has nine points in a six-game streak.

"That was nice; first one of the year," Oshie said. "It was good. 

"I'm in a new spot on the power play. I'm on the point. I played there in the past and felt pretty good. Good screen by Schwartz in front of the net and then a great play by Tarasenko to get me the puck up top."

Gunnarsson's first goal with the Blues needed video review after 1:47 ran off the clock. After officials reviewed the play, it was evident his shot from the left point was good at 12:45 for a 2-0 lead.

"I didn't think it was in, but after a review, I'll take it," Gunnarsson said. "... From my angle, I didn't think it went in. It kind of just bounced right back out. We looked up on the big screen and saw it was in by an inch or two. It was good.

"It was kind of weird sitting on the bench and ... what do you do, celebrate? It was kind of weird and then they pulled the clock back. It's what happens. We'll take it."

Gunnarsson, who's still working his way into a new team and a lineup catching up to others after missing seven games to begin the season rehabbing from off-season hip surgery, played 17:22 and arguably his best game as a Blue.

"I thought he was one of the guys that gathered this thing in in the third period because we played a great first period; they gave us a big push in the second and we took some poor penalties, but I thought we came back and played with real focus in the third," Hitchcock said.

It was the first time this season that the Blues played a game with their entire lineup in tact.

"There's lots of options," Hitchcock said. "It's probably tough for some players because you're sharing ice. Some guys probably don't play and it gives us more options than we've ever had." 

Forsberg, who has a goal in six straight games (seven total), got the Predators within 2-1, scoring 36 seconds after Gunnarsson's goal with a wrist shot from the right circle.

The Predators erased the Blues' two-goal lead when Weber's one-timer from the slot beat Allen high stick-side 3:41 into the second period to tie the game.

"I don't know if I could have stopped it either way," Allen said. "I didn't even really see it. 

"(Weber's) had one of the hardest shots in the league for a long time for a reason."

The Blues led 3-2 on Tarasenko's team-leading 10th of the season; he cut into the middle of the ice and took a wrist shot through a set of legs and off Rinne's glove with 4:42 remaining in the period. 

The goal completed the Gordie Howe Hat Trick for Tarasenko, who fought Ryan Ellis 6:46 into the second period. Schwartz got an assist to extend his point streak to five games (eight points). 

The Predators finally converted on their fourth power play, with Oshie in the box for delay of game. Josi's slap shot from the right point past a screened Allen at 19:59 of the second tied the game 3-3.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues' T.J. Oshie (left) battles Nashville's Shea Weber for the puck in
Thursday's game. Oshie returned to the lineup after missing seven games
with a concussion and scored his first goal of the season in the 4-3 win. 

"It's always tough," Allen said. "You give up a goal in the last minute, it's tough to go into the locker room like that, but we rallied. It was a zero-zero game going into the third period. That didn't matter anymore. The guys pulled it out in the end. Paul had a great tip there and got a good goal."

Allen came up big in the late going, making big saves on Neal with 3:09 left and another on Forsberg, vying for a fourth point, with 23 seconds left.

"I was a little late reacting to it, but I knew he was in the slot," Allen said of Neal's shot. "He hangs out there; that's sort of his forte and he got it off quick. It just hit me and I just dropped it didn't squirt out anywhere. He got it of quick and it sort of just got me in the stomach.

"They've got a dangerous offensive crew and Forsberg's pretty hot. I played against him last year in Milwaukee. I sort of seen what he's done before. Once I heard that "last minute," I just tried to battle to the end."

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