NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The St. Louis Blues finally can relax with their
playoff streak extended for one more year.
Brian Savage scored the tiebreaking goal at 2:43 of the third period, and
the Blues beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 Saturday, clinching their 25th
consecutive playoff berth.
The Predators also secured a playoff spot when Vancouver beat Edmonton 5-2
later Saturday. It is Nashville's first playoff berth in the franchise's
The Blues' run, which started in 1980, remains the longest such streak in
major league sports, and it marks a remarkable turnaround for a team that won
only six of 27 games from late December into February.
St. Louis, assured of the Western Conference's seventh seed, rebounded with
a late-season surge to extend that streak. The Blues' first victory in
Nashville this season gave them their 10th win in 15 games.
``We put ourselves in a pretty deep hole here, but we've gotten ourselves
out of it and I'm proud of that,'' Blues forward Doug Weight said. ``Our guys,
we couldn't be playing better going into the playoffs. We believe, and we had
our destiny in our own hands and we took advantage of it.''
Now interim Blues coach Mike Kitchen has the option of resting some people
like goalie Chris Osgood, who has played in seven straight, on Sunday at
``The team has battled hard for a long time here,'' Kitchen said.
St. Louis scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final 90 seconds. Dallas
Drake scored first at 18:41, and Chris Pronger added one at 19:10. Petr Cajanek
also had a goal.
Fans, who comprised the Predators' sixth home sellout this season, made the
game feel like a playoff opener instead of the final home game as they kept
chanting and blowing air horns. The teams played like it, too, looking more
like they were killing off penalties in a physical, low-shooting game.
``It was a playoff game. There's no question about it,'' Blues defenseman
Bryce Salvador said. ``It was a tight checking, hard-hitting. ... What more can
you ask for? The fans were in here for them. It was really loud, and it was a
The Predators lost for the third time in six games because the Blues outshot
them 25-17. Osgood, the NHL defensive player of the month in March, smothered
almost everything that came near him. He is 5-1 in his last six starts.
Savage broke the tie with his 16th goal, scored at the left front edge off a
pass from Weight behind the net.
The Predators went up 1-0 on their first shot as Scott Hartnell scored his
17th at 1:11 of the first under Osgood's stick from the left corner of the
crease off a drop pass from Greg Johnson.
St. Louis answered at 10:09 of the first as Cajanek got his 12th off a
deflection with assists to Pascal Rheaume and Pavol Demitra.
The officials acted as if it were a playoff game as well, holding off
calling penalties until forced to by a fight after the first-period horn
sounded. Nashville forward Jeremy Stevenson took St. Louis right wing Jamal
Mayers to the ice after a few punches.
Osgood sprawled to stop the Predators' best scoring chances on Hartnell's
backhander at 12:56, and he also smothered a shot by Adam Hall in the final
minutes of the period following a beautiful spinning pass by Mark Eaton.