Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Nashville Predators, 3-2, in Game Two to even their Second Round series at 1-1. It's the first loss the Preds have suffered of the 2017 postseason, and a late goal by the Blues sealed the result.
As was the case in Game One, St. Louis tallied twice in the third period, and a 5-0 count in power-play opportunities for the Blues didn't help Nashville's cause.
"I thought they played a much tighter game," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "Kudos to them, they played a good game too. It's disappointing to be up halfway through the third there [and then lose], but we have to stay out of the box, maybe get a call here and there and just capitalize on our chances. I thought we came at them down the stretch, but their goalie made some good saves."
Just as they did in Game One, Nashville struck first when Ellis blasted a shot from the point that deflected off of Colton Sissons, then James Neal, then Jake Allen, and into the net for a 1-0 lead, with the goal being credited to Neal. Late in the frame, Preds center Vernon Fiddler was assessed a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct, and with 20 seconds remaining in the period, Tarasenko evened the score.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm2: Neal lights the lamp with redirect
Nashville killed the remaining time on the Fiddler major to begin the second, with the two teams combining for just 23 shots through 40 minutes and an unchanged score.
As the third period began, it wasn't long before Nashville went back on top once more. Cody McLeod laid a hit in the Blues zone to force a turnover, and Ellis blasted a shot - this time untouched - into the top corner for a 2-1 lead. Four minutes later, St. Louis got it back off a scramble in front, just as a power play had expired, to even the score.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm2: Ellis blisters top-shelf beauty
Then at the 16:09 mark of the third, it was Tarasenko who converted what proved to be the game-winner, his second of the night. Nashville had a late push, including a deflection off the post in the dying seconds, but Allen stood tall to give the Blues their first win of the series.
"There were things that I liked tonight," Nashville Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "The bottom line is we have to win hockey games. We didn't win tonight."
The Predators will now head home after facing their first true taste of adversity in these playoffs, having lost for the first time. Nashville believes they have more to give than what they saw in the first two outings in St. Louis, and they'll get that chance beginning Sunday afternoon.
Video: Ellis, Johansen and Rinne talk first playoff loss
"I don't think we expected to win 16 games straight and walk off with the Stanley Cup," Ellis said. "We were bound to lose a game. I thought we played a decent game, but probably didn't deserve to win with that one, and didn't win that one. We'll regroup, refocus and learn from our mistakes, come back stronger next game and be better."
"There's no time to be frustrated," center Ryan Johansen said. "We have a great hockey club in here and we feel like we didn't play very well in St. Louis for the most part. We had some spurts where we did good things, but we have a whole different level we can get to. We'll get some rest and try and take care of business at home."
Video: NSH Recap: Preds give up late goal in Game 2 loss
Miikka Salomaki entered the lineup in Game Two for the first time in the 2017 postseason, recording five hits in 11:23 of ice time. Calle Jarnkrok re-joined the Nashville lineup, while P.A. Parenteau was among the scratches for the Preds.
The series now shifts to Nashville for Games Three and Four, beginning Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. Game Three comes with a 2 p.m. CT start on Sunday while Game Four is set for 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.