The Nashville Predators kept their season-opening winning streak alive Thursday night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, using shootout goals from Steve Sullivan and Marek Zidlicky and two big stops by goaltender Tomas Vokoun to post a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues and extend their record to an unbeaten 6-0-0. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis and forward Jeremy Stevenson each collected two points, netting their first goals of the season while assisting on the others' tally. The victory ties the longest winning streak in Predators franchise history and gives Nashville a 3-0 record in shootouts.
"It is a pretty easy job," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said of managing the shootout. "I have Sully, Zidlicky, [Paul] Kariya and we have one of the best goaltenders in the league. My job is done once we get to the shootout."
Nashville trailed entering the third period for the fourth time in six games, despite getting off to a strong start and taking a 1-0 lead 15:05 into the first period. Hamhuis cut off a St. Louis clearing attempt and fired a shot from the left point that was deflected downward and beat Blues goaltender Patrick Lalime to open the scoring.
"I just tried to put it on net," Hamhuis said. "I saw traffic in front and it found its way in. The puck had eyes."
The lead didn't last long, though, as St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer answered less than four minutes later by one-timing a nice cross-ice pass from Petr Cajanek past Vokoun for a power play marker. The Blues took a 2-1 lead 8:24 into the second period when a shanked shot by Dean McAmmond fluttered over Vokoun. Nashville nearly tied the game on the power play seven minutes later, when a chance generated by Adam Hall was stopped by Lalime on the goal line. The Predators were later unable to capitalize on a 5-on-3 power play advantage that lasted 1:56 and carried over into the third period. Nashville's power play unit was shut out on the night, going 0-for-6.
Though the Blues were able to effectively neutralize the Predators top scorers during the game, Nashville's grittier players stepped up to provide the tying goal. Forward Scott Hartnell dug the puck out from the right side of the goal cage and centered it toward the crease, where Stevenson lifted it into the top of the net three minutes into the third. The Predators kept the game knotted with two key penalty kills in the last half of the period, then center David Legwand nearly gave Nashville the lead with two solid scoring opportunities with five minutes remaining--the first a blast from the slot that sailed just wide of the net and the second a close shot that Lalime was able to squeeze between his pads.
Both goaltenders made several impressive saves throughout the game, and the 2-2 score brought about a five-minute sudden death overtime period after regulation play concluded. Despite chances for each side during the four-on-four play, the extra session ended scoreless and the game went to a shootout--Nashville's third of the young season.
Cajanek, St. Louis' first shooter, was stopped by Vokoun. Sullivan then beat Lalime high to the right corner with his opportunity to give the Predators the 1-0 lead after one of three rounds. Vokoun then saved an attempt by Doug Weight, setting the table for Zidlicky to end it with a score. The second-year defenseman skate in, lured Lalime to the left, then pulled the puck back to the right and slid it into a largely vacated goal mouth to give Nashville the win.
Vokoun earned the game's First Star honors by stopping 29 of 31 shots he faced during the game and both shootout attempts. Lalime was named the Third Star in the losing effort, saving 27 of 29. Hamhuis' two-point effort merited Second Star.
The Predators continue a three-game homestand Saturday night when they face the San Jose Sharks for the second time this year. Nashville defeated the Sharks 3-2 in the season opener on Oct. 5. Tickets are still available for the game, and can be purchased by calling 770-PUCK, ordering online, or visiting any Ticketmaster outlet. Game time is 7 p.m.
NOTES: The Predators power play unit went a combined 0-13 against Blues penalty killing over the last two games... Jeremy Stevenson's goal and assist were his first of the year in each category... Nashville won 60 percent of the face-offs Thursday night... With the win, Tomas Vokoun moves to 5-0 on the season. He has not been beaten by any of the five shooters he has faced in a shootout... Darcy Hordichuk registered three hits Thursday, Ryan Suter had three takeaways, and Danny Markov blocked three shots... Marek Zidlicky led all Predators in ice time with 26:58... Steve Sullivan's shootout goal Thursday was his first in three attempts; Marek Zidlicky missed the net on his previous attempt against Anaheim... The Predators can set a new franchise record for longest winning streak (7) with a win against San Jose Saturday... Thursday night's attendance was 12,058.