NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dan Ellis credited Nashville Predators fans with giving the team the final push it needed to hold on and beat the St. Louis Blues.
Starting with the last television timeout, more than 17,000 fans stood and stayed on their feet waving the white T-shirts they received as a promotional item. The cheering was spontaneous and loud in response to the Predators rallying for a 3-2 win over the Blues.
The win, combined with Vancouver's 2-1 loss to Edmonton, propelled Nashville into the post-season.
"That was huge," Ellis said. "We were able to feed off of that. It gave us a lot of energy to get us through the final minutes."
The Predators' goalie, who stopped 27 shots, stayed on the ice while his teammates skated to the bench for the timeout.
"If you are standing behind the bench it is pretty impressive to look at the community and the people in the stands," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It was pretty loud on the bench because I was trying to call lines and the guys couldn't hear me."
The Predators had to come from behind to beat the Blues for the second time in three nights.
J.P Dumont took a pass from Jan Hlavac midway in the slot and put a one-timer past St. Louis goalie Hannu Toivonen to tie the score 2-2 with 2:14 left in the second period.
De Vries put the Predators in front at 4:01 of the third period, beating Toivonen from high inside the right circle with a wrist shot to his glove side. Dumont assisted on that goal, making a pass as he fell to the ice after being tripped.
"When I tripped I put the puck in front of the net and luckily for us de Vries was there," Dumont said. "He had a great shot to get the goal."
Nashville won five of the last six meetings with St. Louis, with the wins all coming by one goal.
"We were really resilient," Trotz said. "The Blues were looking for redemption. They are a proud team. They are well-coached. They came out and played extremely hard."
Smithson scored a short-handed goal, his second of the season, with eight minutes left in the first to put the Predators up 1-0. Hlavac took a shot from the right side that bounced high off the chest of Toivonen, and Smithson skated in and batted the puck into the net from waist high.
"I'm glad I listened to my father," Smithson said. "He always told me to go for a line drive in baseball instead of swinging for a home run."
Hlavac, who joined the Predators at the trade deadline, had an assist on all three goals for the Predators. He has points on the last four game-winning goals. He scored the game-winners in both of the Columbus games and assisted on the overtime goal that beat the Blues on Tuesday.
"Hlavac has really fit in, especially on the line with Arnott and Dumont," Trotz said. "He is a very intelligent player. He plays well without the puck. You can tell he has played with very highly-skilled players.
"Our scouts identified him. I didn't know him that well. He has really fit in. He can play a checking role. He can complement highly-skilled guys. He can kill penalties. He is on the power play. When I first got him I didn't know what role I would have him in.
Jay McClement tied the game at the 6:27 mark of the second period for the Blues. He skated into the left circle and fired a wrist shot that bounced off the top post and into the net past Ellis.
At 10:14 of the second period, Andy McDonald skated in through the left circle and centerd the puck to David Backes, who beat Ellis to his glove side with a wrist shot.
A loss by the Predators would have made it extremely difficult for them to stay in the playoff race. St. Louis coach Andy Murray said that never cross his mind.
"We had some guys that played pretty determined," Murray said. "We had some other guys who just didn't get the job done for us.
"We weren't even thinking about ruining their playoff chances. I've got a lot of respect for the job Nashville's coaching staff does. I'm good friends with Trotz. We are just trying to win games. Our responsibility is to play all 82 games as hard as we can."
Notes: Hlavac has seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last four games. ... The Predators allowed scoring in the second period for only the second time in nine games. ... The Blues have played eight straight one-goal games.