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Predators win against Blues defined by 90 seconds

Sequence leading up to final goal in Game 3 displayed Nashville's dominance

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

NASHVILLE -- It was only about 90 seconds, but they were 90 hockey seconds.

So it was an eternity.

A minute and a half in a hockey game can feel like an hour and a half, and it can be totally demoralizing when you are the team chasing the puck and trying desperately to get it out of your zone.

That's what happened to the St. Louis Blues just past the midway point of the third period in Game 3 of their Western Conference Second Round series against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday. The Blues had been thoroughly outplayed but were still in the game, down 2-1, one shot away from tying it up.

Except the Predators did not give them a chance to even touch the puck, much less shoot it.

Video: Predators tally on long shift in Blues' zone

They cycled and cycled and even got a full line change in before working the puck to defenseman Roman Josi at the blue line, and his shot found the back of the net at 14:11. The goal made the score 3-1, not necessarily an insurmountable lead. But that long shift in the Blues zone was emblematic of what the Predators did throughout Game 3, so the mental impact of it made that two-goal margin probably appear much bigger than it was.

Just the way 90 hockey seconds appear far longer than 90 normal seconds.

"It was a perfect shift for what the score was," Josi said. "We had a one-goal lead and you want to keep the puck as long as you can in their zone and keep it away from your net. I thought we did a great job of being patient and hanging on to the puck. When we saw a hole to shoot it, we did."

The Predators lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Game 4 here on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports), and if the Blues hope to tie the series they can't let the Predators do what they did in Game 3.

The Blues had an 8-4 lead in shots on goal when forward Ryan Reaves was called for elbowing Predators defenseman P.K. Subban at 8:31 of the first period. From that point to the end of the second period, the Predators outshot the Blues 25-6.

That long shift in the third period leading to Josi's goal was just a concentrated version of what the Predators did most of the night.

"We're at our best when we're pressuring," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "Right now the way we played in our [defensive] zone matched the way that we executed, matched the way we competed all over the ice. We were waiting to see what they were going to do. And we were reacting to that. We have to initiate much better."

The Predators were visibly upset after their 3-2 loss in Game 2. Of course, no team is happy after a loss, but it was Nashville's first loss of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Looking at things reasonably, the Predators could not expect to win every game, and they didn't.

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Blues series coverage]

 

But the way they lost Game 2 bothered them. They emphatically fixed that in Game 3.

"It wasn't about anyone else but ourselves last game," said defenseman Ryan Ellis, who opened the scoring and extended his point streak to six games. "We shot ourselves in the foot, we didn't do our part to win that game. Tonight I thought you saw a more complete game, more of a style that we want to play and need to play if we want to be successful."

Coach Peter Laviolette appreciated the response his team offered him, even if he was reluctant to talk about how thoroughly the Predators dominated the Blues. But he was happy to talk about how good it felt to be back home and how the crowd noise helped the Predators win.

"The building was awesome today, that's a credit to our fans," he said. "The energy that comes into this building, you guys see that and get to experience it just like we do. That's a real positive for us."

Video: STL@NSH, Gm3: Laviolette on Preds' defense in Game 3

That third-period shift was emblematic of how relentless the Predators fans were all night, berating Blues goaltender Jake Allen whenever he allowed a goal and generally making it an inhospitable place for the visiting team.

And the Blues can expect more in Game 4, because the Predators are going to do everything they can to maintain that atmosphere.

"I don't think there was any moment in the game when we gave them the opportunity to take the energy out of our building," Subban said. "Playing in St. Louis, they would want to do the same thing, and they did. 

"For us now, that's our mindset going into the next game, is don't give them an opportunity to take the energy out of our building. Let's feed off of it, because when this place gets going it's a tough place to play for a visiting team."

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