Saturday, February 4, 2012

Preds best Blues for fourth time this season

The Nashville Predators defeated the St. Louis Blues by a 3-1 score on Saturday night in front of the 16th sellout crowd of the season at Bridgestone Arena. Martin Erat had three points in the game, and Pekka Rinne made several incredible saves to help Nashville collect two crucial points from their Central Division rival.

St. Louis came out flying to start the game in the first period. They were in complete control of the puck for the first few minutes of the first period, but that changed when David Perron took hooking penalty to put the Predators on the power play.

Erat was able to give the Predators a 1-0 lead on the power play when he fired a slapshot from the point that beat Jaroslav Halak. It was an uncharacteristic shot from Erat. He's not known for his slapshot, but he unleashed a bomb that found its way into the back of the net.

"He's usually a playmaker, but he's got a good shot. Maybe he should use it a little more," said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist.

Mike Fisher added another goal for the Predators at 12:30 of the first period from right in front of the net. Sergei Kostitsyn made a great play to get around T.J. Oshie in the corner. Oshie took a hooking penalty on the play, but Fisher scored on the delayed penalty to put Nashville up 2-0.

In the third period, St. Louis pulled within one goal when Chris Porter beat Rinne on a great individual play. Porter was able to steal the puck away from Roman Josi in Nashville's defensive zone, and he fired the shot past Rinne before the Finnish goalie could react. That would be as close as the Blues would get, however. Kostitsyn added an empty-net goal in the final seconds to secure the win for the Predators.

Rinne and Halak put on a show for the 17,113 fans in attendance at Bridgestone Arena. Both goaltenders made save after save, some of which were of the highlight-reel variety. If it weren't for the stellar play of Halak in the second period, the Predators could have easily blown the game wide open.

"He was great, but (Rinne) is better. I don't want to change (Rinne) for Halak, but he was good too. It was just two teams going after it. (Rinne) made some unbelievable saves and Halak did too. It was a great game. It was probably one of the best games we've played this season," Hornqvist said.

One of the easiest ways to create offense when a goaltender is playing exceptionally well is to throw pucks on net. Hornqvist did that for the Predators on Saturday night, firing a total of eight shots on goal throughout the game.

"If you shoot eight shots every night, you probably have a pretty good chance to score every night. When you shoot pucks, you create those second and third chances. Then you can create some cycles," Hornqvist said.

With the win, Nashville improved to 4-0-0 against the Blues this season. Each game between these two teams this season have been really close, but the Predators have somehow found a way to come out on top in each contest so far this year.

"They have a great team and we have a great team. It's always a great battle out there, so it's fun to play. You can't really tell why we win the games. We might have a better goalie," Hornqvist said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. Jaroslav Halak(STL)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Martin Erat(NSH)
3. Jaroslav Halak(STL)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

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