Desperate Blues Fend Off Elimination, Force Game 6

Posted at 11:01 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-06 00:01:48-04

Tied 1-1 and staring down what potentially was the final 20:00 of their season, the Blues summonsed their best in the third period Friday night to beat the Predators 2-1 and force a game six back in Nashville Sunday.

St. Louis wasted little time grabbing the lead in the third. Jaden Schwartz pounding in a rebound from a Colton Parayko shot for what would prove to be the game-winner just :35 into the period.

The Blues were able to hold on to that lead thanks to a couple nice saves from Jake Allen, capping their best performance through this series so far.

"They were really good tonight," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said. "We have to be better."

It was the first time in nine postseason games that the Predators have been outskated throughout a game.

The Blues controlled the even strength action, with an aggressive, forechecking attack, outshooting the Preds 32-22 and outhitting them 31-25.

"We have to be better, there's no question about that," Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We have to be ready to match their desperation on Sunday and we will."

The Blues had been looking for a quick start all series, and for the first time in five games they were able to light the lamp first
as Dmitrij Jaskin pounded in a rebound of an Alex Pietrangelo shot for his first goal of the playoffs early in the second.

Both of the Blues goals were products of increased traffic in front of the Predators' net. Rinne was still able to stop 30 shots, but two short rebounds found themselves in the back of the net thanks to that traffic.

The Blues received a golden opportunity to get on the board even earlier with when James Neal was sent to the penalty box for a high-stick with 2:06 left in the first period. Then just :10 later, Mattias Ekholm was whistled for a 4:00 high-stick.

St. Louis had 1:50 of a 5-on-3 advantage, but was unable to get a puck past Pekka Rinne. Mike Fisher contributed two gritty blocks of Vladimir Tarasenko blasts as the Preds were able to kill off the two-man advantage and get a great shorthanded opportunity from a streaking Neal coming out of the box as the period expired.

Fisher's gutsy play is the perfect illustration of why he is the perfect captain for this team. He hasn't provided much in the scoring column this postseason, but he continues to do the little things, defensively and in the faceoff circle, that are required in playoff hockey.

The Predators were able to kill off the remainder of the Blues' extended Power Play and two more penalties in the second period, and have now stopped 13 of 14 opportunities St. Louis has had in this series with the man advantage.

Nashville's special teams advantage became even more evident when they got their own 5-on-3 opportunity and Neal cashed in with his third goal of the series with 6:10 left in the second period. It was the cap to a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play from Roman Josi to P.K. Subban to Neal.

But this time it wasn't enough as the Preds' failed to match the Blues' desperation, losing for just the second time in nine playoff games.

And now for the first time this postseason, the pressure is squarely on them.

They will be the favorites to take care of business in game six in Nashville, where the Predators have won eight straight playoff games.

They better, because they do not want to have to come back to St. Louis for a game seven.