Jaden Schwartz scored early in the third period and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in Game Five at Scottrade Center on Friday night, cutting Nashville's series lead to 3-2. With the result, the Blues have forced a Game Six, which will be played on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, and kept the Preds one win away from advancing in the postseason.
The Predators had stretches of pressure throughout the game, but the sentiment from the Nashville locker room at end of the night was that they didn't have their best effort in Game Five.
"We just need to be better," center Ryan Johansen said. "I think it was about us tonight. We didn't have the throttle down. We kind of seemed like we were hoping we'd just win another game, and we need to find a way to have a better start for next game."
The two clubs were scoreless after one period of play, thanks in large part to a stellar 5-on-3 penalty kill for the Preds. Nashville kept the Blues off the scoreboard for 1:50 of a two-man advantage before killing the remainder of a Mattias Ekholm double minor to start the second.
But for the first time in the series, it was the Blues who struck first when Dimitrij Jaskin, in the lineup for the injured Alex Steen, beat Pekka Rinne at 5:43 of the frame for a 1-0 lead. However, before the period was out, it was Nashville's turn to receive a full two minutes of 5-on-3 power-play time, and P.K. Subban found James Neal lurking at the side of the cage for Neal's third goal of the postseason.
Video: NSH@STL, Gm5: Neal finishes Subban's feed for PPG
Once the third period began, it only took Schwartz 25 seconds to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, when he scored just as his team's power play expired. After that, the teams trades chances for the rest of regulation, with Rinne giving his team a chance to tie it, but Nashville was unable to find the equalizer before the final horn.
"It wasn't our best game, but we still had a chance to win," Rinne said. "We were still in a 1-1 game going into the third, created a few chances and couldn't capitalize. But we have to be real here - we have to be better, that's the bottom line."
From here, the Predators will return home for another chance at eliminating St. Louis, this time on Sunday afternoon in front of the home faithful, an opportunity that is already circulating in their minds.
"It's nice to go home and play in front of your fans, but I think we all agree that we can be better," Rinne said. "We can play better and the preparation and everything leading up to the next game has to be perfect… They obviously have some life now and it's going to be a fun game."
Video: NSH Recap: Rinne makes 30 saves in 2-1 Game 5 loss
Ryan Ellis saw his point streak come to an end at seven games, remaining tied with Colin Wilson for the longest such streak in franchise playoff history.
Game Six between the Preds and Blues is set for Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena, a 2 p.m. CT start with TV coverage on NBC. If necessary, Game Seven would come on Tuesday night in St. Louis.