Playoff-bound: Blues beats Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Brian Savage scored the tiebreaking goal at
2:43 of the third period, and the St. Louis Blues beat the Nashville
Predators 4-1 Saturday, clinching their 25th consecutive playoff
The Blues' run, which started in 1980, is the longest such streak in
major league sports.
St. Louis, assured of the Western Conference's seventh seed, needed a
late-season surge to extend that streak. The Blues' first victory in
Nashville this season gave them their 10th win in 15 games.
Nashville could've secured its first-ever playoff berth in the
franchise's six-year history with a win. The Predators could still
qualify with an Edmonton loss at Vancouver later Saturday, or by
beating Colorado on Sunday. Nashville would also get in if both games
end in a tie.
St. Louis scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final 90 seconds.
Dallas Drake scored first at 18:41, and Chris Pronger added one at
19:10. Petr Cajanek also had a goal.
Fans, who comprised the Predators' sixth home sellout this season,
made the game feel like a playoff opener instead of the final home
game as they kept chanting and blowing air horns. The teams played
like it, too, looking more like they were killing off penalties in a
physical, low-shooting game.
The Predators lost for the third time in six games because the Blues
outshot them 25-17. St. Louis goalie Chris Osgood, the NHL defensive
player of the month in March, smothered almost everything that came
near him. He is 5-1 in his last six starts.
Savage broke the tie with his 16th goal, scored at the left front
edge off a pass from Doug Weight behind the net.
The Predators went up 1-0 on their first shot as Scott Hartnell
scored his 17th at 1:11 of the first under Osgood's stick from the
left corner of the crease off a drop pass from Greg Johnson.
St. Louis answered at 10:09 of the first as Cajanek got his 12th off
a deflection with assists to Pascal Rheaume and Pavol Demitra.
The officials acted as if it were a playoff game as well, holding off
calling penalties until forced to by a fight after the first period
horn sounded. Nashville forward Jeremy Stevenson took St. Louis right
wing Jamal Mayers to the ice after a few punches.
Osgood sprawled to stop the Predators' best scoring chances on
Hartnell's backhander at 12:56, and he also smothered a shot by Adam
Hall in the finalminutes of the period following a beautiful spinning
pass by Mark Eaton.
Notes: Nashville dropped to 25-6-7-3 when scoring first, while St.
Louis improved to 13-19-6-1 when falling behind 1-0. ... Hartnell's
first-period goal was only the 50th allowed by the Blues this season
in the opening period. ... Approximately 360 fans bused down for the
game from St. Louis, giving the Blues some vocal support. ...
Weight's assist extended his point streak to fivestraight (one goal,