|Photo by John Russell
Predators forward David Legwand
scores the eventual game-winner--and his second goal of the night--on Blues goaltender Jason Bacashihua 12:02 into the second period.
David Legwand scored twice and the Predators power play connected at a 40-percent clip as Nashville got back on the winning track against the St. Louis Blues with a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Nashville Arena. Legwand and Alexander Radulov scored 28 seconds apart in Period 2 to break a 1-1 tie, then Peter Forsberg ripped a slapshot past goaltender Jason Bacashihua 4:12 into the third. Earlier, Legwand scored 11 seconds into the game to put Nashville up 1-0, but Christian Backman tallied with just under 11 seconds remaining in the first to send the teams into the intermission tied up.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Nashville and established a new franchise record for victories in a season (50). With one game remaining on the regular season schedule--8:00 p.m. Saturday in Colorado--the Predators record stands at 50-23-8.
After Radulov and Jordin Tootoo missed glorious chances in the first half of the second period, Nashville converted on its third power-play of the game to take a 2-1 lead. With just eight seconds remaining in a hooking penalty to St. Louis defenseman Jeff Woywitka, Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott started a tic-tac-toe play that finished with Legwand roofing a puck from the right edge of the crease. Kariya, stationed on the right side of Nashville's power-play setup, faked a shot and zinged a pass across the ice to Arnott in the left circle. Arnott wasted no time in sending the puck toward Legwand, and although a defender's stick tipped the pass, Legwand still received it with plenty of room to shoot and score.
On the next shift, Radulov showed off the sniper ability that accounted for 17 rookie-season goals entering Thursday's game. Radulov received the puck in the left circle with his back to the net and made a quick pivot. The defense parted, allowing Radulov to glide in from the left hashmark and pick his spot on Bacashihua. His wrister slipped through the Blues netminder and rippled the back of the net to make it 3-1 at 12:30.
The Predators killed off two power plays in the last half of the second before a shot by Kariya from the slot with 30 seconds remaining deflected off a defenseman's stick and hit the goalpost.
Nashville got its second power-play tally of the game on Forsberg's goal early in the third. Forsberg started the play by making a nice move to pull up along the left wall after carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Forsberg centered the puck to Scott Hartnell, who dished it back to defenseman Ryan Suter at the left point. Suter returned the puck to Forsberg atop the left circle, where he executed a deliberate wind up before ripping a slapshot over Bacashihua's glove hand to make it 4-1 at 4:21 of the third.
On the first shift of the game, Legwand and Tootoo jumped on a Blues neutral-zone turnover to start the sequence that led to the first goal. Tootoo received the puck at center ice and quickly sent it to Legwand on left wing. Legwand crossed into the offensive zone and unleashed a wristshot from the left circle that beat Bacashihua to give the Predators the quick start they were looking for after slow starts in recent games.
Radulov set up Forsberg for a great chance shortly thereafter and St. Louis called its 30-second timeout with just 2:46 gone in the game. The Predators continued to pressure the Blues, with two power-play chances in the opening frame and a number of close opportunities. Marek Zidlicky was stopped on a shot targeting Bacashihua's five-hole near the 5:00 mark and Vern Fiddler was denied on what looked like a sure goal after J.P. Dumont set him up during a 2-on-1 rush. Just over 15 minutes into the first, Hartnell--playing in his first game since missing 18 with a broken foot--rang a shot from the left face-off circle off the crossbar behind Bacashihua.
The Predators' inability to capitalize on their chances stung when Backman was able to tie the game with his goal late in the first. Blues center Jay McClement led a rush down left wing and was ridden off by Nashville defenseman Shea Weber, but McClement continued behind the net and into the right corner where he dished the puck to Backman at the right point. Backman's shot through traffic eluded Predators starter Tomas Vokoun to make it 1-1 at 19:49.
The game became rather chippy in the latter half of the third period. Hartnell and Radek Dvorak went off for matching roughing penalties at 11:14, then Blues defenseman Barret Jackman was ejected for arguing an unsportsmanlike conduct call with referee Dan Marouelli with 13:24 gone. Forsberg followed through on a check on Dvorak in the neutral zone with just under five minutes left in regulation, and Dvorak responded with an unpunished slash to the ankle of Forsberg, who went down to one knee while looking to the officials for a penalty call. Scott Nichol and Hartnell then went to the box for their roles in a reaction against St. Louis seconds later.
Nashville killed off the two-minute 5-on-3 power play but 30 seconds after it ended, Tootoo checked Dvorak hard to the ice and was then cross-checked from behind by St. Louis defenseman Matt Walker. Tootoo and Walker each drew minors for roughing and Tootoo drew an extra minor for cross-checking. St. Louis pulled Bacashihua at that point to create a two-man advantage but was unable to slip another goal past Vokoun. Still, the conclusion was eventful, as a loose puck in front of Nashville's net with 16.7 left in regulation led to a rugby-style scrum and a matching pair of roughing penalties to Shea Weber and D.J. King. Then Blues center David Backes was sent off for high-sticking with 14.1 left, putting the teams at even strength until the final buzzer put the game in the books.
NOTES: The Predators reached 50 wins for the first time in team history and broke last season's franchise record for points (was 106, now 108). The Predators increased their point total for the third consecutive year (74 points in 2002-03, 91 in 2003-04, 106 in 2005-06 and at least 108 in 2006-07)... David Legwand's goal 11 seconds into the game was the fastest goal from the start of the game in franchise history. Legwand scored twice and has scored at least two goals five times this season. His second tally was his third power-play goal of the season and seventh game-winning goal. He leads the team in game-winners and now has 27 for his career, making him the franchise's all-time leader... Paul Kariya posted an assist to notch his 500th career NHL assist... Alexander Radulov scored his sixth goal in his last 11 games. He has points in six of the last seven games (4g-3a)... Dan Hamhuis registered an assist to extend his point streak to three games... Peter Forsberg scored his first goal since the Feb. 24 game against Detroit... The Predators have outscored opponents by a combined 92-60 in first periods this season and 99-61 in second periods... Nashville is 38-10-4 when scoring first, 35-1-5 when leading after two periods... The Predators finish 2006-07 with a 21-8-3 record against the Central Division and a 28-8-5 mark at home. They are 60-16-6 at the Nashville Arena over the past two seasons... Vitaly Vishnevski, Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan were scratched for Nashville.
PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ
General Game Impressions
I thought we came out with great energy, had a real good first period...I thought we played structurally really well, we were able to break their system, which has been really tough on teams. We were able to enter (their zone) with some speed and we had a good forecheck, had some good chances, then you know sort of a seeing-eye puck at the end of the first period (for St. Louis) and you know the way things have been a little bit tougher for us you know just getting goals and all that. I thought that (their goal) might have a real negative effect but it didn't and that was a really good sign you know how you're going to respond to a little adversity.
How we responded to that in the second period I thought we came out and did the same thing, just played real hard, did the right things, and we were rewarded. We got some momentum in the second period. If you can get that goal and build on it its real key and that really turned the game around. You know I thought in that second period we were real solid. Then in the third period we did the same thing - we knew they (St. Louis) would come out in the third period with a real good push and we weathered their storm. I thought we played really well.
You know the power play got two important goals which you're going to need in the playoffs, you're going to have to come through big, and I thought Forsberg's goal was great, you know they got us going there. The Arnott goal...they were out there the whole two minutes and they got one with eight seconds to go so that really came up real big.
Then the penalty killing obviously came up big at the end, we got some big saves from Tomas when we needed, you know they (St. Louis) didn't have a lot of chances but when they did they had a couple of good ones and we responded really well...then the 5-on-3, that was huge, I mean obviously that could have been a game changer right there but special teams hung on, did a great job and killed it off.
PREDATORS FORWARD SCOTT NICHOL
On scoring 11 seconds into the game
I think if you look last year and most of the year this year, we've had real good starts. Teams are scared to come in our rink, because we do. We're a real quick start team. It was a good boost that we needed. I thought (Legwand), Paul Kariya, and our top players played real well tonight.
On the game intensity
I think that's what we have to play with. We have to play on edge. We have some grit in this lineup, we have some guys who can put the puck in the net, we play hard, and they take penalties, and we score on the power-play. It was a good game all around. I don't think we took any minutes off, we played a full and solid 60 minute game and it was good to see.
On playing playoff hockey
I think we've been playing it most of the year, a few games there, we got away from it, but I think we've been trying to play playoff hockey all year long. I think we have, because if you look at our schedule, our numbers, and what we've done this year, we've put up a lot of numbers. We have one more game and then we play for keeps.
PREDATORS CENTER DAVID LEGWAND
On the quick start
It was a good start. Obviously, we knew we had to take advantage of their trapping game and use speed. I think we did that all night and took advantage of our chances against them. (We) just moved the puck forward all night.
On coming close to home ice advantage
Watching, you never know who you're going to play. Though, it's obviously a crap-shoot right now. It's something we have to move forward with. You're going to play a good team in the first round either way you look at it. Home ice is always good and something we look forward to.
On holding the three goal lead till the end
It was good. Obviously, we have to hold down and buckle down on leads and I think we did that in the third period. That was a big part of the game tonight. They didn't have much in the third period. We moved the puck forward all night, now we have to keep doing that.
PREDATORS LEFT WING PAUL KARIYA
On winning at home after losing the past three
It was important for us to play well. We were better against Chicago, but especially the past two weeks, we haven't been playing good hockey. It was important for us to get a win, but also to play well and play a solid 60 minute game.
On coming closer to getting home ice advantage
For sure. We're in a position to take care of our own business and have to worry about what other teams are doing and that's important.
On the amount of penalties at the end of the game
We did a good job of standing up and being a team. We don't want to take penalties like that at the end of the game; five-on-three. We'll take the win.
On the power-play
It's huge. You can't go into the playoffs without your power-play working. There are instances before in the playoffs where it carries a team throughout the playoffs, just having a good power-play. It's good we got a couple tonight and get our confidence going there.
ST. LOUIS GOALTENDER JASON BACASHIHUA
"Obviously they are a good hockey team. That's why they are at where they are and in the playoff race."
"It's a good hockey club over there."
"When you give up two quick ones like that - one minute you're tied at one and next you are down two goals. Obviously that hurt us a bit but we responded well and put some pressure on them."
ST. LOUIS FORWARD RADEK DVORAK
Nashville coming out fast
"The first three minutes they were all over us. But I think after that the last few minutes of the period I think we kind of evened up."
ST. LOUIS COACH ANDY MURRAY
Nashville coming out fast
"I thought they did. Well obviously we called a timeout after three (minutes) because we thought they were flying and we weren't. There is no sense waiting till the last minute to call your time out. I thought we regrouped, were pretty good the rest of the first period, scored the goal to make it 1-1."
"It's been an area of concern since I got here. We need to fix it"
A lot to play for still
"Every single game is a lot to play for. You are playing in the National Hockey League. It will be a full house in Minnesota and we play hard every single night. That's our mandate. That's the only way we know how to play."
What made the difference...
"In most cases with us it's not a failure of willpower and determination it's a failure to execute. We need to execute."