Photo by John Russell
Predators forward Alexander Radulov jumps into the arms of a teammate after scoring the game-deciding goal Tuesday.
Rookie Alexander Radulov scored the game-deciding shootout goal and Chris Mason stopped all four St. Louis Blues shooters he faced as the Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 Tuesday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Mason stopped Bill Guerin, Martin Rucinsky, Keith Tkachuk and Doug Weight in succession whille Blues goaltender Manny Legace turned aside chances by Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya, and Martin Erat before Radulov lifted a backhander past the netminder in the fourth round of the tie-breaking session.
"In a shootout you have to have a little bit of composure," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said when asked why he chose Radulov as his team's fourth shooter. "Some guys like [Sullivan] and [Kariya] have that sort of ice in their veins when it comes to that. And I think this kid does. It was just a gut feeling. His dad's in town. I said, 'What the heck.' "
In the locker room, Radulov admitted to being a bit nervous when he took the ice for his shootout attempt. "A little bit," he said. "As soon as I started skating it was OK."
The win improves Nashville's record to 25-9-3 for the season. The Predators have now won 12 straight meetings with the Blues dating back to Oct. 15, 2005. They widen their Central Divison lead to six points over the Detroit Red Wings, who were idle Tuesday.
The game was scoreless after a well-played and penalty-free first period. Erat set up Kariya for a goal 1:21 into the second period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead, but the Blues outscored the Predators 2-1 in the third to knot the game at 2-2. With less than seven minutes left, Nashville failed to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:27. As a result the tie remained through the end of regulation to force the five-minute overtime session. The Predators had another great chance to win the game in OT, with two full minutes of a 4-on-3 power play, but again came up empty.
"Obviously you need to score on a 5-on-3 and also a 4-on-3 in overtime, but we still won the game," Kariya said. "We'll make some adjustments and go from there."
Still tied at the overtime buzzer, the game went to a shootout where Radulov converted on his first ever shootout attempt to secure the win. Nashville is now 4-1 in shootouts this season.
Kariya opened the scoring 1:21 into the second period. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen started the play, sending an outlet pass off the left boards to Erat at the far blue line. Erat carried the puck behind the Blues net and emerged in the right circle, where he spied Kariya making a backdoor move from the hashmarks. Once Erat sent the puck to him, Kariya had no trouble depositing it past Legace to put the Predators ahead.
St. Louis had Nashville on its heels a bit early and late in the first period, but otherwise the Predators looked to be the stronger team through 20 minutes. David Legwand skated particularly well and generated two of his team's best scoring chances in the opening stanza. On one, his long pass up the center of the ice sent Kariya in on a breakaway that ended with the speedy winger clanking a backhanded shot off the crossbar near the 10:00 mark. Legwand himself was the beneficiary of the other one, receiving the puck as he cruised down the slot and forcing Legace to stop and smother his point-black chance.
Legace was solid in the first period, stopping all 11 Predators shots. In addition to the saves on Kariya and Legwand's chances, he also denied Scott Hartnell and Sullivan a minute apart early in the first period.
Nashville's penalty killers were the story in the second period. They successfully negated St. Louis on four power-play opportunities. Mason was particularly strong behind his shorthanded units, making a big glove save on Lee Stempniak's bid from the top of the left circle at 3:14. At even strength Mason also deftly handled Jamal Mayers' deflection of Barret Jackman's shot midway through the period--a change of direction that handcuffed Mason.
Though Nashville outshot the Blues 11-8 in the first period, the 7:52 of second-period power-play time for St. Louis allowed the visitors to close the gap to 16-15 after two. The Predators had their share of quality chances in the second period as well, with Sullivan setting up J.P. Dumont for a chance around the 5:20 mark and Dumont returning the favor to Sullivan 30 seconds later. Dumont and Jason Arnott did the same, alternating chances during Nashville's first power play in the latter half of the period.
Radek Dvorak scored a power-play goal for St. Louis 1:58 into the third to make it 1-1. The line of Jordin Tootoo, Darcy Hordichuk and Jerred Smithson then changed the face of the game with one physical shift five minutes into the period. The trio seemed to hit everything that moved until Tootoo was sent to the penalty box for charging. Upon his release, he leveled Jay McKee with an open-ice hit. That drew the ire of St. Louis and Jamal Mayers, in particular. The Blues forward was penalized for roughing to put Nashville on the power play. The home side capitalized to go up 2-1 at 8:19 when Hartnell scored from the doorstep off a pass from Kariya.
Nashville seemed to have all the momentum when Bill Guerin tallied on a harmless looking play to pull St. Louis even again with 9:14 remaining in regulation.
"It was pretty quiet after he scored," Mason said. "I don't even know where he came from. He just kind of lost coverage and he shot and just beat me. It kind of did [deflate the building]. But we held on. I thought in overtime we put some pressure on them. It was unfortunate not to get a goal there but we got the two points, so it all worked out."
Next Nashville travels to Dallas for a Friday night game against the Stars before returning to face the Boston Bruins at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Saturday. Tickets are still available for that Dec. 30 game and can be purchased by ordering online, calling 615-770-PUCK or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet.
NOTES: Paul Kariya posted a goal and an assist and now has 12 points (5g-7a) in the last eight games. He has registered at least two points in three of the last four games and Nashville is now 10-0-0 when he scored a goal... Martin Erat recorded two assists and now has 11 points (1g-10a) in the last 10 games. He already has 26 assists this season after collecting a total of 29 helpers for all of last season... Kimmo Timonen assisted on Paul Kariya's goal to extend his point streak to five games (1g-5a=6pts)... Goaltender Chris Mason made his 16th straight start and is 11-4-1 in that span. Tuesday's game was his second shootout win vs. the Blues and he has stopped all seven shootout attempts he's faced in those two games... Alexander Radulov scored the game-deciding goal on his first shootout attempt in the NHL. For the season he now has three game-winning goals and one shootout winner... Defenseman Greg Zanon blocked a game-high four shots, all in the opening period... The Predators power play has converted at least once in eight straight games... Nashville is 6-1-0 in its last seven games and 11-2-3 at home this season... The Predators are 4-0-0 against St. Louis for 2006-07 and 12-0-0 against the Blues over the past two seasons... Nashville is 9-3-1 vs. Central Division opponents, 17-1-3 when leading after two periods, 15-6 in one goal games, and 16-3-1 when scoring the first goal... The Predators outscored the Blues 1-0 in the second period and have now outscored opponents by a combined 53-21 in the middle stanza for the season.