The Nashville Predators ran their record to 2-0 with their second consecutive road win over a division rival, topping the St. Louis Blues by a score of 4-2 at the ScottTrade Center.
The Predators relied on their usual formula- outstanding goaltending by Pekka Rinne; a tenacious defense; and opportunistic scoring.
Quickly emerging as an offensive force for the Predators is Craig Smith, who had a goal and an assist in this contest. Smith is playing relaxed and with confidence, and his game reflects those traits. Combined with David Legwand and Colin Wilson, Smith has contributed to a potent offensive line for the Predators.
Patrick Bergland opened the scoring for the Blues at 7:44 of the first with an even strength goal. The crowd for the Blues home opener was in full throat and once again, the Predators would need to swing momentum back to their side.
Enter Craig Smith.
With the Predators on a power play, Shea Weber blasted a shot that Jaroslav Halak could not handle. Smith, lurking around the net, used his quick hands to backhand the puck past Halak to tie the game at 1.
There was no scoring in the second period, but not for lack of effort, especially by the Blues. Rinne made numerous saves as the Blues outshot the Predators 10-4 in the period.
In the third period, David Legwand gave the Predators a 2-1 lead on what can best be described as a fluke goal. Legwand got the puck at the side of the net with the Predators on the power play. He attempted to slip the puck to Colin Wilson, who was driving the net. Instead, the puck caromed off the skate of Blues defenseman Nikita Nikitin and slid past Halak to make it 2-1.
Wait…the Predators tallied on a power play? For the second game in a row?
Taking a cue from the Predators, the Blues scored on the power play as Jason Arnott gathered in a rebound of a David Backes shot and wristed the puck past Rinne.
Tied at 2 and the crowd back in it, Kevin Klein answered for the Predators just 57 seconds later as he made a nice move at the blue line to avoid a defender and walked the puck in toward the face off circle. Klein let go a wrist shot that beat Halak to give the Predators a 3-2 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.
Rinne continued to make great saves as the Blues peppered the predators net with shots. The downside of the Predators effort tonight was the number of shots they gave up to the Blues. For the game, the Predators were outshot 33-16. The tendency to go into an offensive shell and rely on Rinne to bail out this team will cause them problems as the season goes on.
David Legwand iced the game with 1:02 left in the contest as he potted an empty netter to give the Predators a 4-2 lead.
Take nothing away from the effort by the Predators. They hustled and were much better in the neutral zone.
They were also lucky, as the Blues did not cash in on some glorious chances. The Predators once again took too many penalties, but were blessed with a stellar PK. Sooner or later, those man advantages will bite them. Too many puck battles were lost.
This was a solid win, and it is good to get the first two wins of the season on the road against divisional opponents.
The Predators remain a work in progress. There are areas that must be improved. There are flashes of brilliance.
This is what you get with a very young team that is learning on the fly.
Predator fans should hang on for the ride.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. David Legwand
3. Craig Smith
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.