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Preds edge Blues for fourth straight win

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Scott Hartnell and David Legwand each posted a goal and an assist as the Nashville Predators won their fourth game in a row by defeating the St. Louis Blues 5-4 Thursday night at the Scottrade Center. Third-period goals by Jordin Tootoo and Alexander Radulov broke open a 3-3 game and goaltender Chris Mason stopped 38 shots to earn his third straight victory.

Legwand and Hartnell's goals both came in the first period, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. St. Louis then sandwiched a pair of second-period goals around Paul Kariya's sixth tally of the season to knot it at 3-3 heading into the third.

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Tootoo and Radulov made it 5-3 by the 13:20 mark of the third, but Blues winger Bill Guerin scored his second of the night to whittle the margin to one goal with 1:13 left in regulation. St. Louis was unable to net the equalizer before the final buzzer sounded.

After a first period in which the Predators outshot the Blues by a 6-5 margin, St. Louis poured on the pressure and peppered Mason with 36 shots over the final 40 minutes--compared to just 12 shots from Nashville over that same span. With 2:19 gone in the second, Blues forward Jay McClement tied the score at 2-2 with a goal from low in the right circle. Paul Kariya answered at 11:56 to steer the momentum back toward Nashville, but overlapping hooking penalties to Vern Fiddler and Scott Nichol set up a five-on-three power-play tally by Guerin at 14:29--his first of the night.

In the opening period, St. Louis got the early jump on Nashville before the visitors were able to steady the ship. Keith Tkachuk finished off a 2-on-1 break at the :58 mark to give the Blues a quick 1-0 lead. Defenseman Eric Brewer's outlet pass to Tkachuk at the far blueline set up the odd-man rush, and Tkachuk beat Mason from the right circle with a shot to the far side.

Just over four minutes later, Nashville won a faceoff in its own zone and captain Kimmo Timonen sent the puck forward to winger Martin Erat. Erat used his speed to squeeze between defensemen Brewer and Bryce Salvador and he unleashed a shot. The puck slid underneath and through Blues goalie Manny Legace and rebounded off the far post before Legwand swooped in to finish the job. Legwand's seventh goal of the season knotted the score at 5:04.

The line of Alexander Radulov, Scott Hartnell and Josef Vasicek generated pressure in the latter stages of the opening period, converting a Blues turnover into the go-ahead goal. Vasicek intercepted an attempted clearing pass along the left wall and popped the puck out to Hartnell atop the left circle. Hartnell's quick shot went through the screen of Radulov in front, resulting in Hartnell's ninth of the season at 16:23.

After McClement tied it at 2-2 early in the second, Kariya executed a give-and-go with Legwand to free himself in the slot for a lightning-quick one-timer that beat Legace for a 3-2 lead. Guerin's five-on-three goal made it 3-3 by the second intermission.

Nashville's energy line of Tootoo, Darcy Hordichuk and Scott Nichol combined for the Predators' fourth goal, which resulted from a solid check by Hordichuk on Salvador in the neutral zone. The hit popped the puck loose and Tootoo picked it up and skated into the Blues zone to release a low, hard shot from the top of the right circle. It flashed past Legace to restore Nashville's one-goal lead at 4-3 with 5:36 gone in the third. Radulov padded the cushion by capping a three-on-two rush with Hartnell and Vasicek. Hartnell brought the puck into the zone on the left side and centered the puck to Vasicek, who trailed the play slightly. Vasicek's shot to the far side wasn't controlled by Legace, allowing Radulov to poke the puck home when he arrived at the right post at 13:20.

At that point, St. Louis yanked Legace in favor of goaltender Curtis Sanford. Sanford played the remainder of the game but didn't face a single shot as the Blues pressed the attack in Nashville's end in an attempt to tie the game late.

NOTES: Alexander Radulov scored to extend his goal streak to four games... Paul Kariya scored a goal and Martin Erat posted an assist, extending each of their point streaks to four games. Kariya has 6 points (2g-4a) in that span and Erat has 5 (1g-4a)... Josef Vasicek registered two assists for his first multi-point game as a Predator. The points were his first since opening night, when he scored a goal against Chicago... Goaltender Chris Mason faced over 40 shots for the third time this season and has a record of 2-0-1 in those games... Jordin Tootoo fought Eric Brewer at 13:57 of the third... The Predators penalty killers yielded a power-play goal for the first time in six games. It came with Nashville skating down two men... The Predators are 5-3-0 against Central Division opponents... Nashville is 12-1-1 when leading after one period... Forward Jerred Smithson and defenseman Mikko Lehtonen were scratched for the Predators.


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