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Tarasenko helps Blues edge Predators in shootout

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko took a play out of his father's playbook to help the St. Louis Blues win a game Saturday night.

Tarasenko's shootout winner in the fourth round against the Nashville Predators produced a 4-3 victory when he skated in hard on goalie Carter Hutton and whipped a quick wrister stick side. Tarasenko, who had a goal and an assist in regulation, scored in similar fashion in the third period to tie the game 3-3 after the Blues had coughed up a two-goal lead.

"That was a set play that my father teach me," Tarasenko said of his dad, Andrei. "If you do it right, it's probably hard to catch it. ... I just tried to make it through."

Tarasenko and T.J. Oshie scored shootout goals for the Blues, who improved to 6-2 in shootouts this season. The Predators got a shootout goal from Ryan Ellis, but Brian Elliott stopped Mattias Ekholm on the Predators' final attempt trying to get it to a fifth round.

"We needed this game after losing the last game," Tarasenko said.

Jaden Schwartz and David Backes scored for the Blues (37-12-5), who improved to 3-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games. They've beaten the Predators (25-23-9) eight of the past nine times the teams have met.

The Blues are now 14-0-1 against Central Division foes this season. They are one point behind the first-place Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division but have three games in hand.

"We didn't play a full 60 minutes, but we'll gladly take the two points," Schwartz said.

It was Schwartz, Tarasenko and Derek Roy that carried the Blues when the team really needed a boost.

"The line was great," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were really good early off the rush. They made plays, they played with a lot of speed and tempo in their game. We needed it."

Paul Gaustad, Mike Fisher and Roman Josi scored for the Predators, who also played Friday when they defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime at home.

"I thought it was a great point for us," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "You’re down to the St. Louis Blues 2-0 and it's a real hard rink to come into. They come at you hard. I thought as game went on, we got better and better. Had a couple of good chances at the end. Carter was excellent tonight. He's a battler. Tarasenko is dangerous, especially off the rush. He shoots it hard, that was a good line for them."

Down 2-0, the Predators got some life back when Gaustad pounced on an Ian Cole turnover and beat Elliott from in tight with 3:12 left in the period to cut the Blues' lead to 2-1.

With the puck in the left corner, Cole was bunched with teammate Brenden Morrow and a Predators player when he tried to play a puck through the middle of the ice that Gaustad picked off.

Fisher fired a shot from the right corner off Elliott and into the net 3:25 into the third period to tie the game 2-2.

Josi put the Predators ahead after Gabriel Bourque stole the puck from Barret Jackman near center ice. On the ensuing 3-on-2 turned, Josi fired from the left circle and beat Elliott to the short side at 7:33 to give Nashville its first lead at 3-2.

After the goal, it was Tarasenko who went to his goalie and told him that the Blues would get the goal back.

"I just told him we'll get it back," Tarasenko said. "We play for each other.

"On our team, when somebody makes a mistake, we just try to help each other. That's why I go and told him we can get it back."

Tarasenko needed all of 16 seconds to make his claim come to fruition. He brought the puck into the middle of the ice and beat Hutton with a wicked wrister high to the glove side.

"Same like the shootout. It works a lot in the practice sessions," Tarasenko said. "Everybody told me to shoot the puck more and that's what I tried to do."

Hitchcock was impressed.

"The last guy I [saw] shoot pucks like that is [Mark] Recchi," Hitchcock said. "Mark has the same thing where he squares up the blade, the goalie can't see whether it's going left, right or high. When your blade's that square, you can't read off it. ... Pure shooters can only do that. There's not many pure shooters, but he's one of them."

Schwartz tied Tarasenko for third on the team in goals with 17 after be buried a backhand feed from Chris Stewart past Hutton 9:11 into the first period for a 1-0 lead. The power-play goal came with Predators captain Shea Weber in the penalty box for high-sticking Maxim Lapierre.

Backes scored his second goal in as many nights and tied Joe Mullen for 11th on the all-time franchise goal-scoring list with his 151st by deflecting Jay Bouwmeester's one-timer from the right point past Hutton 3:31 into the second to make it 2-0.

That's when the Blues lost it for a bit.

"It became a turnover-fest," Hitchcock said. "Two tired teams, but we got away with some of the turnovers in the second period.

"We played great the first period. We played the right way, we funneled pucks, we got pucks back, we did a lot of really good things. Guys bought in and then we struggled to keep that momentum going. We started making the next play and that got us in all kinds of trouble, and we started playing sideways again and it got us in trouble and it just fed their engine."

"We definitely got better throughout the game," Fisher said. "Both teams played [Friday] night, though both teams looked fresh.

"We're fighting for our lives here. Two (points) would have been awesome but against a good team like this, sometimes that's the way it goes and we'll take one."

Michael Del Zotto nearly got his first goal as a Predator, but his shot from close range hit the crossbar with 2:26 remaining in regulation.

Elliott made 28 saves for St. Louis; Hutton stopped 31 shots.

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