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Preds beat Blues 3-2 with late goal

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Jordin Tootoo
Photo by John Russell
Predators forward Jordin Tootoo gets tripped up by Blues defenseman Dennis Wideman. Wideman was whistled for a penalty, setting the stage for Nashville's game-winning power-play goal.

The Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 Saturday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. J.P. Dumont scored a power-play goal with 4:12 remaining to put Nashville on top and the Predators endured a last-minute push by the Blues to secure the victory.

The win was Nashville's 13th in a row against the Blues and improved the Predators' record for the season to 28-11-3. Nashville has now won two games in a row, having defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 8-3 on Friday night. St. Louis allowed a first-period goal for the first time in 13 contests Saturday and Nashville now holds a record of 19-4-1 when scoring first.

"When you play back-to-back against a team that is waiting for you at home, you want to show up right at the start of the game," Dumont said. "They are going to come out strong and unfortunately when they start with a lead, it's hard to come back after that. We had a good start and played a solid game."

Predators forward Jordin Tootoo was the focus of much attention entering the game. He had delivered some hits to which St. Louis took exception in recent Blues-Predators matches and the teams exchanged barbs through the press. On Saturday, Tootoo played a key role in Nashville's win by doing what he does well--drawing a penalty. With the game tied 2-2 and 5:15 remaining in regulation, Blues defenseman Dennis Wideman took the legs out from under Tootoo and was penalized for two minutes. Dumont scored on the ensuing power play for the eventual game-winner.

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"[Tootoo] was skating and the guy really tried to submarine him, you know, take his knee out and he drew a penalty and we were able to capitalize on it," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said. "So it's ironic in some ways that, well, they took the penalty on him and it cost them the game."

"Any time you create penalties and our [power play] comes up huge for us it's a great thing for me," Tootoo said. "I think I was probably more excited than a lot of the guys on the bench when we scored. I don't know if you saw me but I was jumping. Things like that, those are the kinds of things that get me up for games."

Vern Fiddler poked home a loose puck 2:08 into the game to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. Fiddler found the rebound of a shot by linemate Josef Vasicek, who had skated into the slot from the right face-off circle and released a chance that was knocked down by Blues goaltender Manny Legace. The net was dislodged by Fiddler, but after the puck crossed the goal line--a fact that was confirmed by video review.

Just as critical as the first goal was the Predators' ability to kill off a full two minutes of a Blues two-man advantage before the game had reached the 5:00 mark.

Chris Mason and Vern Fiddler
Photo by John Russell
Goaltender Chris Mason, here making a save on a one-timer by St. Louis forward Bill Guerin, was sensational during two full minutes of 5-on-3 power play time for the Blues in the first period.

"Mason was huge," Trotz said. "[St. Louis has] a 5-on-3 early, Mason was outstanding and the penalty killers, they found a way to get it done. That could have been the game, set, match almost right there, but it was huge for us to get that first goal."

Blues forward Martin Rucinsky tied the game with 1:47 left in the opening period. On a 2-on-1, Rucinsky's attempted cross-ice pass deflected off the stick of defenseman Dan Hamhuis and through the legs of goaltender Chris Mason.

Six minutes into the second period, Tootoo and Blues forward Jamal Mayers met along the wall in the St. Louis zone. The two exchanged words before casually removing their gloves and helmets and circling at center ice. Play stopped and the two combatants squared off in a well-fought and fairly even battle.

"I thought it was a great fight," Tootoo said. "Two guys going at it. We both stood up. It's been a while since I've had a guy stand up to me. We're kind of both middle-heavyweights I guess. I think all around [it was] just a great battle and I'm sure there will be plenty more to come."

"I give him credit for answering the bell," Mayers said. "I tried to get him to go earlier after [Nashville] scored the first goal and he didn't want to. I am glad we were able to settle it."

Highlights of Predators vs. Blues, Jan. 6, 2007 (1:33)

Jason Arnott converted on the power play to give Nashville a brief 2-1 lead, ripping home a one-timer at 11:20. St. Louis forward Lee Stempniak answered 17 seconds later, capping a rush with a shot that beat Mason from the right circle.

"It was hard to get momentum because of the fact that we'd do something to create some momentum and then we'd either take a penalty or they'd score right away," Trotz said.

"It was back and forth," said Mason, who earned first-star honors with 35 saves. "That's the way the games are with these guys. It seems like it's like that every game. There's no one team that really takes over the whole momentum of the game. That's why they are all one-goal games and overtime and shootouts and that--just because it's so hard-fought. It was the same tonight."

Special teams proved to be the difference, as the Blues were unable to capitalize on five power-play advantages and the Predators struck twice on their five opportunities. Dumont's winner was the result of a key play by defenseman Ryan Suter, who prevented a St. Louis penalty killer from clearing the zone. Suter gloved down the clearing attempt at the blue line and ultimately assisted on Dumont's goal. Dumont's attempt to hit teammate Steve Sullivan with a pass ended up deflecting off St. Louis defenseman Jay McKee and past Legace.

"I saw Sullivan coming back at a little angle," Dumont said. "I tried to go for his stick for a tip shot. Hard for the goalie and good for me, it missed [Sullivan's] stick and went to the skate of the defenseman and went in. We were moving the puck really well on the power play and we just got rewarded with two big goals."

"We've been really opportunistic and maybe a bit lucky with scoring those kinds of goals, especially against St. Louis because I think of the games we've played them, they've probably deserved a better fate than they got," Mason said. "We'll take the two points every time if we can."

The Predators, who opened a four-point lead over the Detroit Red Wings for the Central Division lead Saturday night, will next face the top team in the NHL--the Anaheim Ducks. The Western Conference leaders visit the Gaylord Entertainment Center Tuesday night for a 7:00 p.m. CT game. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by ordering online, calling 615-770-PUCK or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet.

SHOOTING GALLERY: St. Louis outshot Nashville 37-24 during Saturday's game. That marked the sixth game in a row in which the Predators were outshot by their opponent and it's a trend the team would like the change, according to forward Jason Arnott. "We are giving up too many shots and we are leaving [goaltender Chris Mason] back there, but we're relying on him right now," Arnott said. "And he's playing unbelievable and we know that. You can't rely on him all the time but I think we are doing a little too much of it now, letting them have too many shots."

TOOTOO CONSULTATION: As he was squaring off with Jamal Mayers for a second-period fight, Predators forward Jordin Tootoo skated quickly to linesman Mark Wheler and said something to him. After the game, Tootoo explained he was simply attempting to clarify whether or not a player is allowed to remove his elbow pads prior to participating in a fight. Mayers had removed his. "I didn't realize that you can take your elbow pads off," Tootoo said. "That's what I was asking him. He didn't answer me back so I just turned around and said, 'All right, let's go.' But apparently it's not in the rulebook, so next time I know.

"[Removing your elbow pads] could work as an advantage but at the same time if you fall on your elbows, boom, you're done for a couple weeks. You bust your elbow open."

NOTES: Nashville is 5-0-0 against St. Louis this season. All five games have been decided by one goal... The Predators penalty killers killed all five Blues power plays and are now 16-for-16 over the past four games... Nashville's power-play struck twice and has now scored a pair of power-play goals in two of the past three contests... The Predators are 16-6 in one-goal games... Jason Arnott posted one goal and one assist and has 10 points (7g-3a) in his last eight games... J.P. Dumont, who was credited with the game-winning goal Saturday, has points in three straight games (1g-4a=5pts)... Steve Sullivan registered an assist and has 12 points (4g-8a) in his last 12 games... Chris Mason has started 21 straight games for the Predators and is 14-6-1 in that span with three shutouts... Ryan Suter had an assist and has a three-game point streak (1g-2a=3pts)... Josef Vasicek recorded an assist and has four points (2g-2a) in the last five games... Goaltender Tomas Vokoun returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with a hand injury and served as Mason's backup. He is expected to start Tuesday against Anaheim... Martin Erat and Michael Leighton were scratched for Nashville.

Post-Game Comments

ST. LOUIS HEAD COACH ANDY MURRAY

Wideman's penalty on Tootoo, the final penalty of the game
"I don't know about the penalty call there at the end either but the referee called it."

"Tootoo kinda dove over him. I don't know, so it's hard to tell. We didn't like the call obviously and then they scored on it, which we didn't like even more."

Overall impression
"We talked to our team after the game and obviously there is no such thing as moral victories or feeling any kind of gratification in losing a hockey game, no matter how hard you play."

"You feel good being on a team that battles every night."

ST. LOUIS FORWARD JAMAL MAYERS

Regarding losing 1 goal games
 "Again Manny [Legace] played unbelievable. We gotta find a way to win those games. It's part of the learning process as a team."

"Like [St. Louis head coach] Andy [Murray] mentioned, there are no moral victories. We need to find a way to win these games."

Regarding the Tootoo fight
"I give him credit for answering the bell.  I tried to get him to go earlier after [Nashville] scored the first goal and he didn't want to. I am glad we were able to settle it."

ST. LOUIS DEFENSEMAN JAY MCKEE

On the game-winning goal that went off the skate
"That's a tough bounce, when a team is as hot as they are and play as well at home, they don't win as many games as they do without getting bounces like that."

"I knew they were looking for that high-tip play which a lot of teams try to do and I tried to get up on Sullivan there and just caught me on the heel on the way through."

Overall impression
"We can gauge how we're playing the way we play against teams like this."

"We will build off it and try to be better next time."

PREDATORS FORWARD J.P. DUMONT

On the game-winning goal
"If we kept on [passing] the puck like that, then good things will happen and our power play did really well tonight. It was a lucky bounce, but like I said, when you play a solid game, those bounces are going to come to you."

On Tootoo drawing the penalty which resulted in the game-winning goal
Every game, we have four lines to go and they played really well again tonight. The line with [Smithson], [Tootoo], and [Hordichuk], they did extremely well. Every time they're on the ice, something happens. They just play so hard and give us some momentum for the next shift. When they're one the ice, you look at everybody on the bench and we are all ready to jump when we look at those guys go. We just want to keep doing what they're doing."

On playing back-to-back games
When you play back-to-back against a team that is waiting for you at home, you want to show up right at the start of the game. They are going to come out strong and unfortunately when they start with a lead, it's hard to come back after that. We had a good start and played a solid game. It was back-to-back, maybe the game last night [against Chicago] wasn't as hard as we expected."

PREDATORS GOALTENDER CHRIS MASON

On the game
"We scored some pretty timely goals over time, they took the penalty late there, and we capitalized. They worked us really hard and they are playing really well right now."

On getting into a rhythm facing the Blues
"They shoot lots of pucks. They have a lot of extra guys that are really good and are starting to play really well again. I think as a team, they are starting to get some confidence. You can tell the way they play. They had a tough start, but they are playing really well right now."

On each game against the Blues being a "close" game
"Every game's been close. A couple of games, we scored some goals we probably shouldn't have and lately, we have really earned our goals against Legace because he's playing well. We just really did a good job when we had the prime opportunities to score the goals."

On the rivalry between the Blues and Predators
"It seems with these guys, especially with St. Louis, we have a little bit of bad blood just with some of the events that have occurred through the years, and this year in particular. It makes for an exciting rivalry and it's that much sweeter when you beat these guys. I'm sure they don't have many good things to say, but it makes for good hockey."

PREDATORS FORWARD JORDIN TOOTOO

On the game
"I knew it was going to happen. At some point during the game. In the first period, we wanted to get up on the board first and we did that. I think as a team, we played pretty good, but there are some areas we have to work on. Like I said, it's a 60-minute hockey game. Things are going to happen."

On his fight with Jamal Mayers
"Mentally, their minds were on me before the game. I think it was a positive for our team. It got a lot of their guys off their game. I know my first shift out there, they were all 'razzing' me.  It's a 60-minute hockey game. There's going to be--at some point, the gloves are going to be coming off and sure enough, the second period came around. I thought it was a great opportunity to lift our team and I though it did."

PREDATORS HEAD COACH BARRY TROTZ

On Tootoo getting a 'reward' in the end
"He was skating and the guy really tried to submarine him, you know take his knee out and he drew a penalty and we were able to capitalize on it. So it's ironic in some ways that well they (St. Louis) took the penalty on him (Tootoo) and it cost them the game."

On the powerplay/penalty kill
"I just think St. Louis, Andy [Murray] has got them playing playoff hockey right now. This is their push. They're trying to get into the mix. They had a lot of emphasis on this game not only due to previous games that we've had--you know, we have a little bit of a streak against them, I think it's 13 straight now against them so they want to break that. They want to get in the mix so they play a real solid game. I mean [Chris] Mason was huge. A 5-on-3 early, Mason was outstanding and the penalty killers, they found a way to get it done. That could have been the game, set, match almost right there but it was huge for us to get that first goal and it was the first time in 12 games they've given up a goal in the first period, which I think has tied an NHL record. So we broke that on them. So yeah, the power play was real good. I thought we had some guys - Steve Sullivan was real good, Chris Mason was real good for us tonight. Good teams find ways to win. It might not have been our best game. We played last night and they came out and played a structured, hard game and we found a way to win."

On defenseman Ryan Suter keeping the play alive prior to Dumont's goal
"You know, [Alexander] Radulov lost it on the half boards, they flicked it out and [Suter] gloved it down and kept the play alive. Then [Steve] Sullivan gets a goal there, that was huge. (The goal was ultimately credited to J.P. Dumont.) There's no question about it. Then Sullivan was real good on [Jason] Arnott's goal. He pulled everybody in then threw it over to Arnott and Arnott unloaded and that was real huge for us. The first goal was just [a matter of Fiddler] going to the net hard. Create a turnover, go to the net hard and look for loose pucks. It ended up going in."

On whether Tootoo was too keyed up for the game at times
"Some portions of the game. Obviously a lot was made of it but he's fine. I don't worry about [Tootoo] and he can take care of himself as you can see. He's had a few of their tougher guys go at him and he's fared very well."

On another game being won by just one goal
"I really don't care if we win by two goals or one goal as long as we win. You know, you're not going to blow the St. Louis Blues out. The way they play, they go into every game going, 'We want to beat you 1-0,' and that's their philosophy. You're not going to go in and get eight or nine goals on them. It doesn't happen. That's how they play. You're going to have to beat them 1-0. You're going to have to beat them 2-1, 3-2. You're not going to really be able to [beat them by a larger margin] with the style of play that they do."

 

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