The Nashville Predators faced the St. Louis Blues for supremacy in the Central Division again on Thursday with the Preds prevailing 4-3.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur, the NHL’s leader in all-time wins and shutouts, was between the pipes for the Blues for the first time this season. The 42-year-old sat out the first two-plus months of the 2014-15 campaign before signing with St. Louis and starting for the club against Nashville. The Preds weren’t interested in giving him a touching comeback story, however.
“We wanted to throw everything at him that we could,” Preds forward Mike Fisher said of Brodeur. “He hadn’t played any or practiced a lot either, so we wanted to try and take advantage of that. [Colin] Wilson made a great play at the end there to get us the win...These battles with the Blues have been so intense, so to get this victory was huge.”
Wilson beat Brodeur on a breakaway with 10:30 remaining in regulation to give the Preds four goals on the goaltender and an eventual one-goal win. Nashville rallied after giving up an early goal to the Blues Vladimir Tarasenko under six minutes in.
“I thought we started off pretty slow and we had to call a timeout in the first period, but then we came out of the gates after that,” Predators defensemen Mattias Ekholm said. “We played our game. When we’re on top of our game and everyone is in [sync], I think no team in the League can beat us. I think we proved that again tonight.”
Mike Ribeiro’s three points paced Nashville, who moved back into sole possession of first place in the Central with the victory.
One-Handed Swipe, One-Timer Tally:
Late in the first period, Predators winger Eric Nystrom found himself on the penalty kill for Nashville, when the forward started a series of impressive individual plays.
After Nystrom’s stick snapped, the 31-year-old put an exclamation point on Nashville’s penalty kill by flopping to the ice and sweeping the biscuit with his glove just across the blue line. The play gave Nashville the kill, and moments later, Nystrom gave them something more significant: the lead.
“I was going ‘please get out, please get out,’” Nystrom said. “We were in our own end quite a bit and having no stick, it’s pretty tiring. They move the puck around on the power play really well, so I was pretty gassed… We got a rush right out of the penalty box at the end of that kill and scored a goal. It put us ahead going into the second period. It felt good.”
Nystrom ripped a one-timer past Brodeur with 53 seconds remaining in the opening frame just moments after Mike Ribeiro emerged from the bin.
“[Nystrom] made a great play there and we caught a little bit of a break,” Fisher said. “Then after that, Ribeiro made a creative play to find Nystrom from the corner [for a goal]. It was a battle back and forth tonight, and we just found a way to grind it out in the end.”
The goal put Nashville ahead 2-1 late in a period that they started poorly in: Icing on the cake for a Preds penalty kill that stopped all three Blues man-advantage chances by the NHL’s 14th-ranked unit.
Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said Nystrom’s goal was well-deserved and credited the PK as a whole.
“Right at the end of the penalty kill, just to kill it and get it out [was big],” said Laviolette. “Mike Fisher and Nye, the penalty killers in general, but it’s always nice to see a guy like Nye get rewarded with a goal and help our club. That was a big goal where we started to turn that tide and turn that momentum in the period, and that was a big part of it too.”
A Legend in Net:
While Preds netminder Pekka Rinne has already had an illustrious career by several standards, the Finn couldn’t compete with his counterpart's resume in the opposition’s crease on Thursday. A long-time member of the New Jersey Devils and future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur suited up for his first game as a St. Louis Blue.
Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time leader in shutouts (124) and wins (688), had previously spent all 21 seasons with the Devils before signing with the Blues on Tuesday.
“He’s a legend, a future Hall-of-Famer for sure,” Nashville rookie Filip Forsberg said prior to the contest. “It’ll be interesting to face him in his first time in the net for this season. Watching him growing up, it’ll be weird not seeing him playing for New Jersey, but I’m hoping I can put a [puck] past him.”
Brodeur was strong in net during the first 16-plus minutes of the game, but his 20 saves weren’t enough to notch a victory in his first minutes with the Bluenotes. With six minutes remaining in the first, Forsberg got his wish and whacked a rebound chance past Brodeur to put the Preds on the board.
“He made some really good saves, it’s amazing he came back and played after how long he’s been out,” Nystrom said. “But it’s definitely nice to win that one.”
The Predators won their seventh-straight home game to improve to 11-1-1 at Bridgestone Arena. Roman Josi tallied a helper on Wilson’s goal, pushing his assist-streak to four-straight games to tie a career-high. Nashville is now 5-0-0 on the season when Nystrom finds the back of the net.