ST. LOUIS - The last two seasons, Paul Kariya and the Nashville Predators dominated the St. Louis Blues. Now the skate is on the other foot.
Kariya helped beat his old team in the Blues' home opener, assisting on two first-period goals by Brad Boyes in a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night.
"It's always a little different the first time you play the guys you played with," Kariya said. "They're a really good team over there and a great group of guys."
Ryan Johnson and Lee Stempniak also scored and Manny Legace had a strong game in goal for the Blues, who were 1-11-4 the last two seasons against the Predators. Kariya, Nashville's leading scorer the last two seasons before signing a three-year, US$18 million free-agent deal in St. Louis, has five assists in the first three games.
"I didn't do too much," Kariya said. "Boysey scored two great goals. He's a scorer, he's got great hands around the net, and he showed it."
The Blues, who also reacquired Keith Tkachuk in the off-season, played before only their third sellout crowd in three seasons. The other two packed houses were for jersey retirement ceremonies honouring Brett Hull and Al MacInnis. This one reflected optimism among the fan base.
"It was great, it was neat," coach Andy Murray said. "I think the fans were entertained. They entertained us."
In a pre-game centre-ice speech, Blues principle owner David Checketts promised to deliver the franchise's first Stanley Cup in the "not-too-distant future." The Blues finished 10th in the Western Conference last season and have been out of the postseason the last two years after a 25-year run.
Checketts walked through the locker room after the game wondering if he had gone too far. He showed a few reporters a text message he had received from one employee: "Very heavy guarantee, boss." Then another after Boyes' early goal: "Yeah!."
Predators goalie Chris Mason allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled midway through the second period and replaced by Dan Ellis. Mason allowed one goal in 64 shots the first two games of the season, both victories.
"It wasn't all his fault, absolutely not," coach Barry Trotz said. "We left Mace to the wolves. He was under siege most of the time."
Jordan Tootoo scored his first goal of the season for Nashville, which won its first two games by a combined 9-1 score over the Avalanche and Stars. This time they were silenced by a team minus three top defencemen - Eric Brewer (shoulder), Jay McKee (foot) and Erik Johnson (foot).
"They played extremely well," Nashville captain Jason Arnott said. "They were playing well at the end of last year, too. They were hyped up and they had their fans going."
Legace left Saturday's game in Los Angles in the second period with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. He went the distance this time, stopping 19 shots.
Boyes capitalized on a break-in seconds after Legace thwarted a one-timer in front from David Legwand on the other end to score on the Blues' first shots at the 54-second mark. He capitalized on another odd-man rush, skating in alone and knocking in his own rebound at 14:37.
Johnson caught Mason leaning and sneaked in a backhand shot at 3:39 of the second period, and Mason was yanked after Stempniak's drive on a rebound at 11:23. Tootoo scored in the final minute of the period.
Notes: Ellis made his second career appearance, and first since his lone NHL start in goal on Feb. 8, 2004, a victory while with the Stars. ... The Blues totalled 16 goals in eight games last season against Nashville, going 1-4-3. ... The Blues' first mascot, a bluish bear with a hat and sunglasses, was lowered from the scoreboard to wisps of dry ice during the opening-night ceremonies. Fan balloting will determine a name. ... Justin Furstenfeld of the rock group "Blue October" sang the National Anthem.