End of road trip sees meltdown after jumping out to 3-0 lead
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It all looked good when Brad Hunt scored.
The Blues' defenseman just scored a power play goal to put St. Louis ahead by three goals, and all signs pointed to at least a .500 road trip and a nice short flight back home.
Call it what it is ... sitting back, thinking the game was going to be easy the rest of the way, playing soft, but the Blues wilted under pressure, saw the Nashville Predators score six unanswered goals, including four in the third period, and fell 6-3 on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues players Alex Pietrangelo (left) and Jaden Schwartz (17) attempt to
move the puck away from Nashville's Filip Forsberg on Tuesday.
The Blues (16-10-4), who finished the road trip 1-3-0, were assertive early and played the way they needed to on the road, which was similar to the way they had played the past few seasons where they've had great success away from Scottrade Center.
Not so much here Tuesday, and not so much here this season.
After getting goals from Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Reaves and Hunt, Nashville erupted by scoring twice in 2 minutes, 15 seconds in the second period to gain momentum back, and then Ryan Johansen scored early in the third to tie it, and Mike Fisher scored twice, including the go-ahead goal to ruin the end of the trip in a game where Jake Allen was pulled after allowing five goals on 33 shots.
"I thought we got outworked at the puck," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We made some big errors in our own zone with the puck and they took advantage of it.
"The goal that (Patrik) Berglund was on for where the guy broke his stick shouldn't have been a goal, but regardless, we just whacked the puck away and ... you can't play like that under pressure. It just seemed that the third period we ran out of gas."
The Predators came with the early push in the first, and the Blues had to withstand two early Nashville power plays unscathed, but as the period wore on, the Blues began to get offensive zone time and cashed in twice.
Shattenkirk's first point in seven games came after a Jaden Schwartz faceoff win, Tarasenko got the puck to the point, and Shattenkirk's seeing-eye wrister had eyes and slightly caromed off Predators defenseman Roman Josi and in at 10:12 for a 1-0 lead.
Reaves' second goal in two games came off a terrific fourth-line forecheck keeping the puck in the zone. Joel Edmundson had a nice keep-in at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, and once Kyle Brodziak got it behind the net, he made a quick no-look pass to Reaves in the slot and his perfectly-placed snap shot beat Rinne top shelf, glove side at 16:41 for a 2-0 Blues lead.
And Hunt gave the Blues a 3-0 lead with a power play goal, his second NHL goal and third point in as many games after Tarasenko gave him a cross-ice feed to the right circle for the one-timer short side 1:49 into the period.
Tarasenko has points in 15 of the past 18 games (10 goals, 15 assists) and one goal and six assists during a four-game point streak.
But the Predators turned up the heat, got two back in the period in a span of 2:15.
James Neal made it 3-1 at 4:07 after Ryan Johansen won an offensive zone faceoff from Paul Stastny, Neal picked up the loose puck and beat Allen upstairs.
Then Filip Forsberg made it 3-2 at 6:22 after skating into the offensive zone with the puck, fired a shot from the left circle past Shattenkirk and through Allen's pads.
"The second goal hurt us, but I thought Brodziak's line really helped us recover," Hitchcock said. "We had a 3-2 lead going into the third period and it's been three games like this that we've lost on the road where we've had the game taken from us in the third period. Same thing in New York, same thing in Minnesota had the game taken from us."
"I think we kind of sat back on a lead almost," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "As soon as they got one, they sort of kind of were getting things rolling and we kind of kept sitting back. We were great in the first half of the game and we were talking, supporting each other. Once they kind of got a little momentum, we backed off a little bit. They just kept pushing, I guess."
The Predators gained some heavy momentum and had lots of offensive zone time and had the Blues on their heels. But St. Louis was able to alleviate the pressure as the period went on and got it to intermission up by a goal.
"They had a good push there," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "Any time you're on the road, teams are going to have a good push and they get momentum from the home crowd and all that. Just seemed like we stopped moving our feet, they kept going. We weathered the storm there pretty good in the second. We just didn't keep up with it."
"I think we had a great push at the end of the second," Parayko said. "But they're a team that's desperate. Them coming out hard in the third was really expected and we kind of just weren't clicking and that's the way it went."
Nashville completed the comeback from down three when Johansen picked up a loose puck in the slot and whipped it past Allen 3:04 into the third after the Blues were going to get called for a delayed penalty when the puck got whistled into their zone.
The goal in question for the Blues was Fisher's first when the puck slipped through Parayko, and it appeared Colin Wilson may have snapped Berglund's stick in half that led to a 2-on-1, and Wilson slipped the puck past a sliding Edmundson into the slot for Fisher, who scored upstairs at 9:02 to give Nashville it's first lead.
"It slipped past me and at first, I thought it was going to be a 3-on-3, but it just kind of slipped by me and down the ice they went," Parayko said.
"I just saw a broken stick," Edmundson said. "I wasn't sure if it was ours or theirs. I just saw a 2-on-1 and I just went to the side. (Wilson) was patient and put it right around me. I take responsibility for that one."
Mike Ribeiro chased Allen for Carter Hutton after scoring on a rebound of a shot from Craig Smith that the Blues goalie got a glove on but laid the rebound right in the slot for Ribeiro to pop in his fourth goal of the season at 10:31.
"What are you going to say? You win as a team, you lose as a team," Hitchcock said of pulling Allen.
And Fisher completed the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:22 remaining.
"We've been known here for years, we've had situations and we find ways to win hockey games," Pietrangelo said. "We've done it at home over the last two weeks. Teams have scored on us and we've found a way to protect that lead and come out with a win. It's obviously harder on the road, but we've got to find a way to do it.
"We knew they were coming and started out OK and then got away from it again. Just had four on the road and just got to find the same pace of play we had in the first half of the game."
Once Nashville tied the game and even took the lead, chances were far and few in between for St. Louis, which scored its third goal on its 13th shot and then had 13 shots over the final 38:11 of the game.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues players (from left) Colton Parayko, Ryan Reaves, Scottie
Upshall and Joel Edmundson celebrate Reaves' goal in the first.
"They were playing tight," Pietrangelo said of the Predators. "They were holding that red line, blue line pretty good. It didn't seem we were getting as many pucks back as we wanted. We weren't skating as we needed to as 'D.' Obviously something to look at, but we've got to find a way to get through that."
The Blues fell to 4-9-1 away from home, were they return for the next three, where they are an exceptional 12-1-3.
The Blues were 9-0-1 leading after two periods, and the Predators were 0-8-0 trailing, and the lesson learned here was?
"Don't let off the gas pedal," Parayko said. "It's a 60-minute hockey game. We played great 25. It's not good enough, especially in the Central Division."
"It's the same thing all year, we've got to find a way to win on the road," Pietrangelo said.