Milestones, late goals, big saves, animosity; there was a little bit of everything happening in St. Louis on Thursday night.
Mike Fisher tallied his 500th career point on a first period goal and James Neal tied it in the dying minutes of the third, but it wasn’t enough as the Nashville Predators fell 5-4 in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues in front of 19,477 at Scottrade Center.
Nashville took a 1-0 lead headed into the first intermission off of Fisher’s milestone, but the second stanza was a different animal.
St. Louis tallied four goals in the frame to Nashville’s two, giving the Blues an advantage heading into the third period in a physical affair. The Preds came back in the third, chipping away with multiple chances before Neal tied the contest with just over two minutes to go.
“I thought we got better throughout the game a little bit, in the third we started to come and play our game a little bit more,” Fisher said. “We give ourselves a chance, we got that goal and you never know with overtime...Just leave it to the shootout, and you never know, but it just wasn’t our night.”
Roman Josi extended the shootout to extra rounds with a slick backhand move, but ultimately Kevin Shattenkirk’s goal proved the winner in the breakaway competition.
“We wanted to get the two points, but it was a good comeback in the third,” Preds winger Eric Nystrom said. “That was a replica of all the games we’ve had this year against them.
“It’s two teams battling for position in the standings, and it’s always fun coming into this building, you know you’re going to be in that type of game and it’s going to be battle, they play hard and we play hard, but they got the final say in this one.”
500 Career Points for Fisher:
They don’t ask how, just how many.
Mike Fisher’s 500th career point in the NHL fits quite well into that category. On a first period power play, Preds defenseman Roman Josi let a shot go from the point, eventually deflecting off of Fisher’s arm, off the glass, off the back of goaltender Brian Elliott and into the cage.
“It’s always good to see that happen,” Laviolette said of Fisher’s accomplishment. “Guys stay in the game a long time and milestones come up. it’s a credit to them.”
Fisher then added a shorthanded goal in the second and an assist in the third to push his career point total to 502, more than impressive to his teammates.
“It took me 500 games to get 100 points,” Preds foward Eric Nystrom laughed. “He’s a great player, he works so hard every single day. He’s a leader on this team and that’s a heck of an accomplishment, he played a great game tonight.”
Fisher is the 433rd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.
The Predators haven’t found themselves in need of a late goal very often this season, but down one score on Thursday against the Blues, the visitors needed some late-game help.
Trailing with under three minutes to play, Neal slipped into the low slot, took a feed from Fisher and buried a one-timer to even things at four aside.
“We’ve done it a bunch of times this year, we’ve really had good third periods,” said Fisher. “We’ve been buzzing and finding ways and they had periods where they were buzzing too and I thought the third was definitely our strongest period and [Blues goaltender Brian] Elliott had to make some big saves.”
Neal’s goal quieted the Scottrade Center crowd and forced overtime which ultimately earned a point in the standings for Nashville. After a tough go of things in the second period, Laviolette said he liked the Preds’ effort level in the final stanza.
“Absolutely, the third period our guys showed up and really hit the gas pedal and generated a lot,” Laviolette said. “[They] forechecked hard and were searching for that goal. I thought we could’ve scored four or five goals in that period.”
“That third period was great for us, we were really bringing a lot of pressure and Elliott made a lot of huge saves,” Nystrom said. “They came back the other end and [Preds goaltender Carter] Hutton made a lot of huge saves. It was a back and forth game and it was fun.”
Nystrom explained that he was particularly pleased with his team’s late game push in a building that’s nearly as tough to play in as the Preds’ Bridgestone Arena. The Blues hold a 19-4-2 record at home, rivaling the Predators 19-2-1 clip in their own barn.
“It’s maybe the second toughest besides ours,” Nystrom said. “It’s always tough coming in here, they have a good team, and strong team, big and physical, and it’s always fun to play them here.”
The Predators began their sixth set of back-to-back games with their contest against the Blues on Thursday; Nashville plays again on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche.
With an assist in the third period, Colin Wilson moved to within two points of tying his career high which he set in 68 games in the 2011-12 season. Center Mike Ribeiro also moved within a hair of a significant accomplishment himself, the 34-year-old is now at 699 points recorded in the NHL.
Nashville concluded their season series with St. Louis on Thursday, finishing with a 3-1-1 record. The Predators remain the League’s top team against their own division, with 13 wins against their Central Division rivals.