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Blues ride fast start to victory against Predators

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were unquestionably ready to play right from the start on opening night.

David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie scored before the game was 10 minutes old as St. Louis chased Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne in a 4-2 season-opening victory Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

Alexander Steen and Backes each had a goal and an assist for the Blues, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo had a pair of assists. Jaroslav Halak stopped 28 shots to improve to 9-3-3 lifetime against the Predators.

"We've beat the [stuffing] out of each other for two, three weeks," Backes said. "It's nice to finally play for keeps and finally play against a different opponent. You get the rah-rah stuff in before, you've got a lot of adrenaline going.

"The [St. Louis Cardinals] scored nine today [in a 9-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Division Series). We were trying to keep up but couldn't do it."

Nashville, which was able to slice the Blues' three-goal lead to 3-2 after pulling Rinne for Carter Hutton, got goals from Mike Fisher and David Legwand.

After pregame festivities that saw Hall of Famer Brett Hull drop the ceremonial first puck, the Blues scored three goals on six shots in a 7:40 span before coach Barry Trotz pulled Rinne.

"It's not the way you want to go in," Rinne said. "It's three quick goals and I just got pulled. [I'm] obviously not happy with that and not happy with my effort."

Backes got it started with a power-play goal, picking up Pietrangelo's shot from the point after Patrik Berglund won the offensive-zone faceoff following a tripping penalty to Matt Cullen. He whirled and slid the puck into the open net three seconds into the power play and 2:05 into the game.

Sobotka's excellent individual effort in fighting off Kevin Klein after taking an outlet pass from Jay Bouwmeester put the Blues up 2-0. He outwaited Rinne and lifted a backhander into the net at 5:43.

The Predators had a lengthy shift in the Blues' zone with nothing to show for it, and the Blues cashed in soon after when Oshie cashed in another backhander off passes from Backes and Steen at 9:45, sending Rinne to the bench.

Trotz didn't feel like his team was being obliterated on the ice and was testy with a question about the Blues' early "blitz."

"They blitzed us? Did you watch the game? We were blitzing them," Trotz said. "Three goals on six shots, exactly. That really isn't blitzing us. We were all over them and they come down and score. They weren't blitzing us, I know that. I know what blitzing feels like and that wasn't blitzing. That was pretty well even.

"They were able to score on all their chances."

Fisher got the Predators on the board at 10:42 when Nick Spaling won a puck battle with Chris Stewart behind the net and fed him in the right circle for a one-timer past Halak.

Legwand cut the Blues' lead to one at 3-2 when he gave Patric Hornqvist the puck, got it back in the slot and redirected the pass upstairs past Halak at 5:09 of the second. The goal came right after Oshie rang a shot off the post that could have given the Blues a 4-1 lead.

"It was pretty ideal the first 10 minutes," Backes said. "I don't know if we got complacent, but that level ... we played pretty well that first 10 and maybe took a step back.

"They're a team that just keeps coming at you, they found a couple and kind of woke us up there where we had to play our style of hockey. It's a result we love and it's one step along the way."

The Blues used another power-play goal to restore their two-goal lead. Steen used Stewart as a screen and beat Hutton at 11:16 when his shot from the blue line trickled into the net. Offseason acquisition Derek Roy won the faceoff that started the play to earn an assist, his first point with his new team.

The difference in the game was special teams. The Blues scored on their first two power play chances and finished 2-for-4. St. Louis' penalty kill thwarted all four Nashville advantages.

"We really worked hard against a lot of pressure, and then on the PK, we had the people that killed penalties kill penalties in penalty killing," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... I thought our special teams was excellent tonight, especially our penalty killing."

And when the Blues needed Halak, he was up to the task. It was Halak's first win since March 23, 2013, a 19-save shutout on the road against the Edmonton Oilers.

"I felt good tonight," said Halak, who dealt with a pair of groin injuries that limited him to six wins last season. "They got a few shots early in the game and got me into the game and got me going.

"It's always tough against this team. They always want to jam it in from behind the net or they just want to create scrums in front. I don't blame them. They've got some big bodies up front, but our guys did a good job of boxing out and being there for me. ... It feels great to be back in and not an exhibition game. But it's one game."

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