Rinne backbones Predators victory over Blues
ST. LOUIS — When a team is struggling to score goals, the last thing they want to see is a goalie who stymied them in their previous meeting.
That’s exactly what happened for the St. Louis Blues in Wednesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators.
Pekka Rinne, who shut out the Blues last month, came within seven minutes of doing it again before the Predators settled for a 2-1 win that moved them past the Blues and into first place in the Central Division.
Nashville leads St. Louis by one point but also has played three fewer games than the Blues.
Rinne stopped 29 shots by the Blues, giving him 63 saves on 64 shots in the two games in St. Louis this season.
“Of course these are big division games and you really try to get ready for it,” Rinne said. “For both teams, preparation-wise it was different coming straight from the break, which was nice to have but it’s also tough to come back and have that mental preparation. I thought we handled it pretty good.”
The Predators got goals from Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok to take a 2-0 lead before Rinne lost his bid for his fourth shutout of the season and 47th of his career on a goal by Vladimir Sobotka with 6:23 left in the third period.
The win broke a three-game losing streak for the Predators (0-2-1) prior the Christmas break, their longest of the season.
“It’s longer than we would have liked,” Rinne said. “You don’t want to get stuck in those streaks. It can be really hard to get out of those and it was big. We talked about it before the game. I think the break was kind of good timing for us. Had a chance to sit back and relax and spend some time with the family.
“We knew that coming in that was a big game. We didn’t want to go (losing) four in a row.”
Rinne’s performance was one of the biggest factors in the win.
“He was really good,” said Nashville coach Peter Laviolette. “There was a lot of shots for them that came from their points. The first shift of the game I think they fired four or five shots from the points and one of them ends up going off the post, but I thought he was extremely sharp.”
The Blues knew going into the game it would be tough to score goals against Rinne, but the way they have been playing of late, especially at home, made it an even greater challenge.
St. Louis has scored a combined four goals in their last four home games, going 1-3-0 in that stretch. Overall, the Blues have scored a combined 13 goals in their last nine games.
“We’re having trouble scoring,” said St. Louis forward Kyle Brodziak. “It’s something we’re trying to figure out as a group, what we’re doing and what we’re not doing well. When you’re having trouble scoring you tend to try to make an extra play or more complicated than it needs to be, we’ve just got to find a way. It’s just a feeling we’ve got to get as a group to get to the net.
“It’s a mindset but it’s a confidence thing, too. We’re not feeling too good about our offensive game right now. We’ve just got to keep working at it and get that mojo going again.”
Coach Mike Yeo admitted he was getting frustrated, primarily because he knows the Blues are a better offensive team than they have showed lately.
“I just think we are better than that,” Yeo said. “The way we scored the goal was an example of the way we need to do things more frequently. We’re not performing offensively at the level we can. It’s hard to win when you score one goal.
“We have to be better. There’s no excuses. It’s not just going to be something where we flip the switch. We’re going to have to build back the mentality that we are a hard, attacking offensive team with the mindset of doing things a certain way. We were scoring goals at a pretty good number earlier in the year, and when things went dry I think we’ve gotten away from some things and we have to get it back.”
Against a goalie such as Rinne, however, the Blues found that hard to do.
“We expected it to be this type of game,” Brodziak said. “I thought Rinne made some good saves, but in the same breath we’re not making it hard enough on him, getting more activity around the net. It’s just where we’re at as a group, we’re having trouble scoring against every team right now.”
NOTES: The Blues on Wednesday announced a four-year contract extension for Doug Armstrong, the team’s president of hockey operations and general manager. The new deal also includes an option for a fifth year for Armstrong, who has been the GM since 2010. ... LW Filip Forsberg played in his 300th career game for the Predators. ... The Blues will play at Dallas on Friday night while the Predators begin a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild the same night.