Thursday, April 27, 2017

Late Fiddler goal gives Predators 4-3 win in Game 1

Blues had big push in third to tie, trail series 
1-0 after pair of mistakes that proved costly

ST. LOUIS -- The momentum was there, the building was all set to erupt.

The Blues had turned what was an inauspicious beginning in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series Wednesday against the Nashville Predators.

They fought back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and were all over the Predators with a relentless forecheck.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) pressures Predators defenseman
Roman Josi during Game 1 on Wednesday.

But a pair of mistakes at the most inopportune time came back to bite the Blues when Vernon Fiddler scored with 5 minutes, 5 seconds remaining to allow the Predators to escape with a 4-3 victory before 19,154 at Scottrade Center and grab a 1-0 series lead.

Fiddler, playing in his first game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, took advantage of fortuitous bounce and halted the momentum the Blues had built up.

It was a play where Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester failed to get a clear out of his zone, and his attempt caromed off Austin Watson, who played a fluttering puck forward towards Jake Allen. In an attempt at a poke-check, Allen missed, and Fiddler was able to poke the puck through Allen's pads while he was sprawling on the ice and deflate the crowd, and seemingly, the Blues.

"It was just a quick transition," Fiddler said. "I saw Watson kind of get it in his feet outside and just tried to get to the net. He made a little flip pass and I just got a piece of it and just chipped it over the goalie. Lucky one."

Allen took the blame.

"Guys fought back great," Allen said. "A little mistake by me cost us. ... I did what I wanted to do."

P.K. Subban had a goal and two assists, Colin Wilson and Filip Forsberg scored, and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves for the Predators, who have won five straight Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Nashville left wing Kevin Fiala was taken off the ice on a stretcher 1:46 into the second period after his left leg slammed into the end boards after being checked to the ice by St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. The game was delayed 17 minutes by the injury and to wait for an ambulance to arrive and replace the one that took Fiala to the hospital. 

Predators coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Fiala.

"I don't think anybody could have thought or planned an incident like that with Kevin and yet our guys, you could hear them on the bench when it happened making sure their next shift was going to be a good one for Kevin," Laviolette said. "It's just one of those unfortunate incidents that happened in the game."

Colton Parayko had a goal and assist, and Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka scored for St. Louis. Allen made 28 saves. 

"I liked the pushback," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. 'I liked the fact we came out the way that we did. Certainly some things we can learn from that, but the reality is, the second period was not good enough. Ultimately it cost us the game."

The Blues had the early push but failed to score, then the penalties that ultimately would cost the Blues dearly in the game.

A David Perron goaltender interference penalty led to Wilson's power-play goal at 11:24 of the first period, a tipped shot off Subban's blast from the top of the left circle.

Then the Fiala incident occurred, and Subban scored 34 seconds after the delay following a failed clear, ultimately that turned into a slap shot from the point to make it 2-0.

"I don't think we responded to their first goal really well," Bouwmeester said. "Kind of gave them some momentum and the penalties are tough in the second, but back and forth game. 

"We can look at the third period and some of the time we spent in their end and take some positives. It's one game."

Parayko made it 2-1 at 8:04 after Kyle Brodziak forechecked the puck, got it to Joel Edmundson, who went D-to-D to an open Parayko, who had all sorts of time before he squirted a shot through Rinne and give the crowd life.

"I was just waiting for anything to open up, whether it be a pass or shot or kind of open through the legs," Parayko said. "It seemed like I had a lot of time to go in and pick my spot."

But the Blues then got into penalty trouble again.

What started out as a 4-on-4, a tripping penalty by Parayko led to a 4-on-3 before Brodziak was called for slashing and giving Nashville a 28-second 5-on-3 situation.

The Blues would kill the 5-on-3 but allow a Filip Forsberg goal to restore the Predators' lead to 3-1 at 12:11 of the third after Subban's shot was stopped by Allen and the puck caromed off Forsberg in front.

"First off, penalty kill. We need to be sharper there," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "If it was a 5-on-5 game, if we were just playing that, then I think we were better. They are a disciplined team. We have to do a better job. We gave up a 4-on-3, we gave up a 5-on-3 tonight. It's pretty tough to kill those in succession. Obviously, we've got to, if that's the case, if that's what we're dealt. But we've got to do a better job there."

Then came the comeback.

The Blues' forecheck was relentless. They pressured the Predators in their own zone and were rewarded when Schwartz made it 3-2 at 6:48 of the third period when he took Paul Stastny's pass in front and jammed a shot past Rinne.

Sobotka tied it 3-3 at 9:22 and came as a result of good speed by teammate Magnus Paajarvi, who drove the middle of the ice, forcing Predators defenseman Roman Josi to respect Paajarvi's move to the net to leave Sobotka a lane to take a wrist shot off the near post and in.

The crowd was going buts, the Blues had the momentum and the feel of a comeback win.

Not the case.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Magnus Paajarvi (left) battles for a loose puck with
Predators captain Mike Fisher on Wednesday at Scottrade Center.

"Yeah, I think in the third period, that was what we wanted to do," Bouwmeester said. "We wanted to kind of have a push and get things at the net. We did a really good job. A tough bounce to end it, but I think there's a lot of things we can build off of."

Yeo said Allen shouldn't have to shoulder the blame.

"I respect that he did that. But he doesn't need to do that," Yeo said. "We dug ourselves a hole in the second period. 

"I liked the pushback. I liked the fact we came out the way that we did. Certainly some things we can learn from that, but the reality is, the second period was not good enough. Ultimately it cost us the game."

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