Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blues stay hot at home with 3-1 win over Predators

Brodziak nets game-winner; Allen solid in 
goal to cap off 3-0 week after loss in Columbus

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were in a tough spot after getting blitzed for eight goals a week ago Saturday.

They were 7-6-3, allowing goals at an alarming rate and not resembling anything like the team that prided itself on being stingy in its own zone and backing it up with great goaltending.

But the Blues came home, and that's been a good tonic of medicine that's fixed a lot of woes this season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward David Perron (right) backhands a puck past Predators
goalie Pekka Rinne on Saturday night to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

They did some soul-searching and found a good remedy by getting back to playing disciplined hockey in their building and now head back on the road with a three-game winning streak following a 3-1 victory against the Nashville Predators before 18,922 at Scottrade Center.

Blues center Kyle Brodziak scored the game-winner when he converted a backhand rebound of Scottie Upshall's shot at 7:28 of the third period after Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne made the initial save off an odd-man rush. Predators defenseman P.K. Subban lost the puck deep in the Blues' zone. 

It was Brodziak's second goal in three games after he had not scored in the first 15.

"The d-man kind of played it well where there wasn't much open space in between us," Brodziak said. "(Upshall) made a great play and when you get a chance like that, it was on purpose. A lot of people don't probably understand that a shot off the goalie or a pass off the goalie makes sense, but it's a play he tried to make and it was a good one."

The game-winner by Brodziak was textbook from Upshall, who purposely targeted Rinne's pads on the initial shot off the 2-on-1 to create a rebound once he saw Brodziak crashing the net. 

"Yeah, we work on that shot a lot," Upshall said. "I got Pekka on it last year actually. I knew he knew it was coming, but it was just a great play by Kyle to go far pad, far post. He made a good play to get that puck on his backhand. It was a good goal."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock calls the fourth line "The Specialists," and it's been producing special moments all week.

"They caused the first power play that we got in the game," Hitchcock said. "They're past providing energy now, they providing good play, which is really forging our identity."

David Perron and Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis (10-6-3), which swept a three-game homestand and improved to 8-1-2 at Scottrade Center, including getting points in the past eight (6-0-2). Jake Allen made 30 saves to improve to 6-0-2 on home ice.

The Blues have had three games hanging in the balance this week. They were tied with Buffalo 1-1 before winning 4-1, then had San Jose down 3-2 and held the fort for that victory and were tied 1-1 on Saturday.

"It isn't that the game was just on the line. We outplayed all three opposition," Hitchcock said. "We outplayed all three teams. So from every aspect of our game,  from special teams to shots on goal to scoring chances, we outplayed all three teams. That's the No. 1 sign for me. We upped our energy as the game went on. 

"I thought overall, of the three games, this was probably the best game we've played."

The Predators (7-7-3), who wrapped up a three-game trip (1-2-0), got a goal from Mike Ribeiro. Rinne made 31 saves for his first regulation loss in November (5-1-2).

The Blues also put an end to James Neal's six-game goal-scoring streak.

Perron put the Blues ahead 1-0, extending his point streak to four games after he scored on a backhand at 3:09 of the second. Perron's goal was executed on three phases. Center Paul Stastny won the offensive zone faceoff, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's slap shot from the left point created a rebound, and Perron was there to collect.

"First, I was trying to pick Neal on the faceoff," Perron said. "I knew it gives 'Bouw' a little more time to make a play there. Then I turned around once I knew I was going to have enough time, I was just happy that (Rinne) kind of ... I wouldn't say a gift because I still had to make a move, but I kind of expected him to maybe glove that. Once he didn't do that, I was able to go on my backhand."

Ribeiro tied the game 1-1 on the power play at 8:59 after the Blues got hemmed in their zone, failed to clear the puck four times and were gassed. Stastny was called for hooking and then Jori Lehtera had two chances to clear the puck shorthanded but didn't and Ribeiro found a loose puck under Allen after the Blues goalie made the initial save on Craig Smith.

But Allen came up with the biggest save of the game when he came up with Ekholm's backhand from the slot. Then the play got chaotic with the puck at the side of the Blues' net and a plethora of bodies by Allen, who was able to keep the puck out and the Blues came away with it and another odd-man rush ensued.

"I didn't even know where the puck was," Allen said. "All I heard was guys skating away. I knew the puck wasn't around me and next thing I know, Vladi's in the slot down there and makes a nice five-hole shot, which is rarely seen by him."

Tarasenko scored on a 3-on-2, converting a wrist shot from the slot at 11:36 of the third to give the Blues a 3-1 lead on a play that the Predators thought about challenging for offsides. But defenseman Robert Bortuzzo dragged his left skate long enough on the blue line as the puck entered the zone.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) is in position while teammate Ryan Reaves
(75) looks to clear Nashville's Cody Bass from the front of the net.

It caps off a good week for the Blues, who have 23 points on the season and helped to a certain degree, forget about what happened in Columbus.

"It was good, but I don't think heads should be too big," Allen said. "We had a good week, we had a solid week, we played well, but we still have a long way to go to come from last weekend. We're getting better every game, so next week is going to be the toughest test of the season so far 100 percent. We're going to see what we're made of."

"Close games are good," Brodziak said. "We have faith in our group that if we keep things close, by the end of the game, we're going to wear teams down, and I think you're seeing it the last couple of games, where I think the later portions of the game we've been able to take over a little bit."

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