Randy Robitaille scored one goal and two assists and Nashville's promising young defensemen made their mark on the scoresheet to lead the Predators to a 4-3 preseason win over the St. Louis Blues Wednesday night at the Savvis Center. The game was the first preseason contest for the Predators, whose special teams notched both a power play goal and a short-handed goal in the victory.
"Robitaille had a real strong game on both sides of the puck tonight," said head coach Barry Trotz, who also gave credit to his defensemen for taking advantage of the league's new rules and playing an active game in the offensive zone.
Nashville's Shea Weber opened the scoring 4:50 into the game. The 20-year-old defenseman ducked into the slot and one-timed a pass from center Jerred Smithson to put the Predators on top 1-0. St. Louis tied the game less than two minutes later on a goal by Jamal Mayers, who received the puck from Jay McClement and stuffed it into the empty side of goaltender Chris Mason's net.
Nashville regained the lead, 2-1, on a power-play goal by Scott Hartnell at the 11:22 mark. Hartnell fired a wrist shot past Blues goaltender Patrick Lalime after being set up by Robitaille and defenseman Kevin Klein.
The scoring picked up in the second period, paced by two goals from Blues forward Mike Sillinger. His first came just over halfway through the period and tied the game at 2-2. Nashville took back the lead just 20 seconds later on a deflection goal by Robitaille, then a short-handed tally by defenseman Ryan Suter--set up by a drive from Robitaille--gave the Predators a 4-2 cushion at 15:02 of the period. Sillinger struck for his second goal just over half a minute later to again cut the lead to one.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, who split the 60-minute game with Mason, stopped all 10 shots he faced in a scoreless third period to earn the win. For the game, Rinne stopped 13 of 15 shots and Mason stopped 16 of 17.
On special teams, Nashville went one for four on the power play while committing only three penalties in the game. Nashville's penalty killers kept the Blues power play silent, while Suter's short-handed goal served as the eventual game-winner.
"I thought both teams did a great job of respecting the rules," Trotz said, referring to the stricter standard on obstruction that is being enforced this year and has led to several penalty-filled preseason games league-wide.
In a post-game shootout exhibition, the Blues outdueled the Predators three goals to two. Simon Gamache and Darren Haydar lit the lamp for Nashville while Doug Weight, Petr Cajanek and Dean McAmmond scored for St. Louis. Throughout the preseason, every NHL game will be followed by a shootout regardless of the score. The exciting skater vs. goaltender showdown will be used by the National Hockey League to settle any tie games during the 2005-06 regular season.
The Predators' next game is a home preseason match-up against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, Sept. 23. Game time is 7 p.m. CDT at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The game will be broadcast by the Predators' radio flagship station, 104.5 The Zone, with the pre-game show beginning at 6 p.m.