Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tarasenko shootout winner helps Blues slip past Predators

Winger also added goal, assist in game St. Louis lost 2-0 
lead; Hitchcock impressed with Roy, Schwartz, Tarasenko line

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko often speaks to his father Andrei. They talk about life, but they also talk about what both are passionate about: hockey.

Tarasenko heeds his father's words, particularly when it comes to shooting the puck.

And when Tarasenko skated in fast on Carter Hutton in the fourth round of the shootout Saturday night against the Nashville Predators, he thought of what his father always taught him to do.

Tarasenko scored the decisive shootout goal, then Brian Elliott stopped Mattias Ekholm to preserve a 4-3 victory against the Predators Saturday night before 19,358 at Scottrade Center.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Vladimir Tarasenko (91) is congratulated by teammates after scoring in
the shootout Saturday against Nashville.

Tarasenko's shootout winner came when he whipped a quick wrister stick side. Tarasenko, who also had a goal and an assist, scored in similar fashion in the third period to tie the game 3-3 after the Blues coughed up a two-goal lead in the game.

"That was a set play that my father teach me," Tarasenko said. "If you do it right, it's probably hard to catch it. ... I just tried to make it through."

Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie scored shootout goals for the Blues, who improved to 6-2 in shootouts this season. The Predators got a shootout goal from Ryan Ellis, Ekholm could not extend the game.

"We needed this game after losing the last game," Tarasenko said.

Jaden Schwartz and David Backes scored for the Blues (37-12-5), who improved to 3-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games. They've beaten the Predators (25-23-9) eight of the past nine times the teams have met. 

The Blues are now 14-0-1 against Central Division foes this season and pulled into a tie for first place with the Chicago Blackhawks, who were playing the San Jose Sharks late Saturday night. The Blues are also now 53-0-1 when scoring three or more goals on home ice, including 18-0-0 this season.

"We didn't play a full 60 minutes, but we'll gladly take the two points," Schwartz said. 

It was Schwartz, Tarasenko and Derek Roy that carried the Blues when the team really needed a boost.

"The line was great," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were really good early off the rush. They made plays, they played with a lot of speed and tempo in their game. We needed it."

Paul Gaustad, Mike Fisher and Roman Josi scored for the Predators, who also played Friday when they defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime at home.

"I thought it was a great point for us," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "You’re down to the St. Louis Blues 2-0 and it's a real hard rink to come into. They come at you hard. I thought as game went on, we got better and better. Had a couple of good chances at the end. Carter was excellent tonight. He's a battler. Tarasenko is dangerous, especially off the rush. He shoots it hard, that was a good line for them."

Down 2-0, the Predators got some life back when Gaustad pounced on an Ian Cole turnover and beat Elliott from in tight with 3:12 left in the period to cut the Blues' lead to 2-1. 

With the puck in the left corner, Cole was bunched with teammate Brenden Morrow and a Predators player when he tried to play a puck through the middle of the ice that Gaustad picked off. 

Fisher would fire a shot from the right corner off Elliott and into the goal 3:25 into the third period to tie the game 2-2. 

Josi put the Predators ahead after Gabriel Bourque stole the puck from Barret Jackman near center ice and an ensuing 3-on-2 turned into a shot from the left circle, beating Elliott with a short side shot at 7:33 to give Nashville its first lead at 3-2.

After the goal, it was Tarasenko who went to his goalie and told him that the Blues would get the goal back.

"I just told him we'll get it back," Tarasenko said. "We play for each other. 

"On our team, when somebody makes a mistake, we just try to help each other. That's why I go and told him we can get it back."

Tarasenko only needed 16 seconds to make his claim come to fruition, as he was able to answer to tie it 3-3, taking the puck into the middle of the ice and beating Hutton with a wicked wrister high glove side.

"Same like the shootout. It works a lot in the practice sessions," Tarasenko said. "Everybody told me to shoot the puck more and that's what I tried to do."

Hitchcock was impressed.

"The last guy I seen shoot pucks like that is (Mark) Recchi," Hitchcock said. "Mark has the same thing where he squares up the blade, the goalie can't see whether it's going left, right or high. When your blade's that square, you can't read off it. ... Pure shooters can only do that. There's not many pure shooters, but he's one of them."

Schwartz tied Tarasenko for third on the team in goals with 17 after be buried a backhand feed from Chris Stewart past Hutton 9:11 into the first period for a 1-0 Blues lead. The power play goal was a result of Predators captain Shea Weber in the penalty box for high-sticking Maxim Lapierre.

Backes scored his second goal in as many nights and he tied Joe Mullen for 11th on the all-time franchise goal-scoring list with his 151st after deflecting Jay Bouwmeester's one-timer from the right point 3:31 into the second to make it 2-0.
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
David Backes (42) shoots the puck with Predators defenseman Roman 
Josi defensing the play. Backes  scored his 19th goal Saturday night.

That's when the Blues lost it for a bit.

"It became a turnover-fest," Hitchcock said. "Two tired teams, but we got away with some of the turnovers in the second period. 

"We played great the first period. We played the right way, we funneled pucks, we got pucks back, we did a lot of really good things. Guys bought in and then we struggled to keep that momentum going. We started making the next play and that got us in all kinds of trouble, and we started playing sideways again and it got us in trouble and it just fed their engine." 

"We definitely got better throughout the game," Fisher said. "Both teams played [Friday] night though both teams looked fresh. 

"We're fighting for our lives here. Two (points) would have been awesome but against a good team like this, sometimes that's the way it goes and we'll take one." 

Michael Del Zotto nearly got his first goal as a Predator but his shot from close range hit the cross bar with 2:26 remaining in regulation. 

Elliott made 28 saves in the game. Hutton stopped 31 shots.

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