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Blues sidestep pressure, challenges to win Game 5

Don't get frustrated against Predators, avoid elimination

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

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues could not afford to wilt with their season on the line.

Yet at nearly every turn of their 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round on Friday, the Blues were given opportunities to do just that.

Whether it was a missed penalty call or a momentum-sapping power play, the Blues fought through those moments when the game -- and their season -- could have got away from them.

As a result, they will play Game 6 in Nashville on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports), trailing the best-of-7 series 3-2 but still alive.

 

[RELATED: Complete Blues vs. Predators series coverage]

 

"I don't think we were really too rattled," Blues goaltender Jake Allen said. "We had nothing to lose, honestly. We didn't. It's either we play Sunday or we're done. So there was no reason to get rattled, no reason to get frustrated. I think we did a good job of that."

The challenges began before the game even started.

Forward Alexander Steen took part in warmups but was scratched because of a lower-body injury, removing a leader and a key component of the Blues attack from the lineup at a point in the series they needed all the offensive weapons they could get.

St. Louis scored two goals in the previous two games, so losing Steen at a time like this was less than ideal.

Instead of being devastated by it, the Blues watched forward Dmitrij Jaskin play for the first time in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and dominate the game. He gave them a 1-0 lead with a goal at 5:43 of the second period -- the first time St. Louis opened the scoring in the series -- and had a game-high eight shots on goal and four hits in 15:46 of ice time.

Video: NSH@STL, Gm5: Jaskin sweeps home rebound in front

Jaskin revealed after the game that Steen predicted he would score once it was determined he was playing.

"I don't know if we thought he would be as good as he was tonight, because he was impressive," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "But we felt confident he would go in and play a really good game. … I thought he was a force along the walls in both ends and a difference-maker."

The Blues entered the game having voiced their displeasure with the officiating in Game 4 and had another opportunity to allow that frustration to take over early in the first period.

Forward Jaden Schwartz made a move to create what looked to be a great scoring chance when he appeared to be tripped by Nashville forward Filip Forsberg.

There was no call, and considering how the Blues felt about the previous game, there was a risk that noncall could begin festering in their minds.

Jaskin scored on a rebound off the ensuing faceoff, and that risk was instantly defused.

"In the playoffs there's some calls that would get called in the regular season, but everyone knows that," said Schwartz, who scored the winning goal early in the third period. "You've just got to fight through it and not let frustration get to you. Once the call's not made, there's nothing you can really do except keep going. That line did a great job of scoring a couple of seconds right after that."

Video: NSH@STL, Gm5: Schwartz lifts a rebound past Rinne

The Blues power play also risked being a source of frustration. They got their opportunities and not only squandered them, but could have been demoralized by them. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:50 late in the first period and had only one shot on goal, an unscreened slap shot from the blue line by Alex Pietrangelo.

A few minutes after Jaskin scored, the Blues got a power play and did not generate a single shot attempt, let alone a shot on goal, and wound up taking simultaneous penalties as the power play expired, giving the Predators a 5-on-3 advantage of their own.

Nashville scored to tie the game, a sequence that could have crushed the Blues mentally.

But it didn't.

"That, for me, is the story," Yeo said of the Blues' inability to score on the two-man advantage. "Listen, we'll have lots of time to answer questions about the power play, but the mentality that we had to be able to bounce back from that? Really impressive.

Video: NSH@STL, Gm5: Yeo on Game 5 victory to extend season

"That's what we asked our guys before the game, that whatever happens, good, bad, you have to make sure that you come back and go out ready to perform. It's one thing to say it, it's another thing to go out and deliver. Those guys did."

Did they ever.

The Blues allowed one shot on goal over the final nine minutes of the game, and that came off the stick of Forsberg with 6:11 remaining, a laser beam off a St. Louis mistake in the neutral zone that Allen stopped with his blocker.

With a lead and a season to preserve, the Blues did not allow the Predators to get another sniff at their net.

It was desperation at its finest, and down 3-2 in the series, the Blues will need a lot more of it heading back to a hostile Bridgestone Arena for Game 6 if they want to ensure that Friday was not their final home game of the season.

"We won the game tonight, but we're still in a hole here," Yeo said. "So if that's what motivates us or if that's how we play our best, well then I guess our wish is granted."

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