Coming into Thursday night's game, Nashville was 8-0-1 in their previous 9 games. It's tough to get a win in Bridgestone. And in the past 25 games between Nashville and St. Louis, 16 of those games were decided by one goal.
It was clear from the outset: this was going to be a tough, close game, and likely one with playoff intensity.
To open the game, the Predators played sloppy with the puck once again around their own net. Passes were not crisp and accurate for the most part, and many were picked off in front of the zone.
This is somewhat discouraging, because even though Pekka Rinne is one of the best in the league, Nashville cannot expect to go deep into the playoffs simply by leaning on his greatness and not bearing down and focusing. Over the course of the game this got better, but those small mental lapses are enough to worry about at least a little at this point in the season.
St. Louis drew first blood in the game with a goal by Chris Stewart. Stewart gets credit for the goal, but ultimately it was actually knocked in off the skate of Kevin Klein. At first blush, it seemed as though the goal may have actually been kicked in by Stewart, but after review the goal was ruled good and the final verdict was that the puck was kicked by Klein and not Stewart (Jason Arnott and Kris Russell were credited with assists on the goal).
My personal favorite highlight of the period was when Shea Weber absolutely lit up Vladimir Sobotka. Sobotka was doing a little juke move on the board, attempting to fake Weber out and avoid the hit, but it didn't work. The end result was Weber slamming Sobotka hard into the glass, so hard that Sobotka staggered away from the ice as he came out of the game. Fortunaltely, the hit was clean and there was no penalty. The only penalty in the first period was goaltender interference by St. Louis' David Perron.
Less than three minutes into the second period, the Predators managed to tie the game up. Pekka Rinne played the puck off the board behind the net as St. Louis was working into the scoring zone and knocked it ahead, but away from the Blues players who making their way up the ice. The result was a break away opportunity for Nashville. Roman Yossi finished the play for Nashville with the third goal of his young career with assists from Matt Halischuk and Brandon Yip.
At the 12:52 mark of the second period, Nashville took its first lead with a backhander by Colin Wilson right out in front of the net. It was Wilson's 13th goal of the season, and it was assisted by Jordin Tootoo and Nick Spaling.
Nashville's lead did not last long, as only 37 seconds later, the game was tied right back up. Vladimir Sobotka made a big comeback from that huge hit from Weber that took him out early to score the game-tying goal for St. Louis. The goal was assisted by David Perron and Patrik Berglund.
The third period was a knock-down, drag-out, defensive battle between the Predators and Blues. It was reminiscent of previous matchups, which all seem to inevitably go to overtime.
This game was no different.
Something that those other games had in common, however, was a scoreless overtime leading to a shootout. That thought was lingering throughout the overtime period, with what also seemed like another inevitable event: this game was surely going to a shootout.
The Blues nearly ended the game in overtime when Stewart had an opportunity to tip in a redirect of a puck out in front of the net, but Rinne absolutely robbed him with a beautiful save. Martin Erat found Roman Yosi right in front of the net, where all he would have to do was redirect the puck in to win the game...but he never saw it coming.
Sobotka had the last shot attempt of the overtime period with under 10 seconds left in the overtime period, but Rinne safely gloved it, which lead to a fruitless faceoff won by Nashville to end the period.
T.J. Oshie was up first for St. Louis in the shootout, as Nashville took the home option to shoot second. Oshie scored easily on a backhander. Colin Wilson was up first for the Predators, but he missed, hitting the left pad of Jaroslav Halak.
Andy McDonald was up next for the Blues, and he nailed the goal, putting the puck right between the legs of Pekka Rinne. This put the game in the hands of Martin Erat, and he lost control of the puck as he was going for a shot, ending the game.
Each team was 0-1 on power play attempts. Pekka Rinne had 22 saves on 24 save attempts, while Joroslav Halak had 25 saves on 27 save attempts.
The two teams will face each other for the final time this season on March 27. Nashville plays San Jose on Saturday in Nashville. The Predators remain in fifth place in the Western Conference standings, now four points behind St. Louis.