But St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says it is meaningful to
"It puts value in what's left of these (20) games," he said Thursday
night after a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone
Arena. "We want to take advantage of this. It's important to our
"We've got 24 players on this team and two have won that trophy.
That's not a very high percentage. I'd like to see the guys get
rewarded for all their hard work."
The reward in this one came courtesy of Magnus Paajarvi's
tiebreaking goal at 8:18 of the second period, a low wrist shot
perfectly placed over the stick of goaltender Pekka Rinne, and a
team defensive effort that limited Nashville to 21 shots.
St. Louis (42-14-6) won its third straight game and moved within two
points of the idle Anaheim Ducks for the NHL's top record. New
goaltender Ryan Miller (18-22-3), who was acquired from the Buffalo
Sabres on Friday, notched 20 saves in winning his third consecutive
"No one wants to hear a goalie complaining about too few shots," he
said. "I'm happy to be a part of this club and they play a good
brand of hockey. It's my job to do a job — stop the puck, keep
myself alert, energetic and engaged. In this league, there are going
to be opportunities."
Those became fewer and fewer as the game progressed. After
Paajarvi's goal, the Blues clamped down defensively, making it
harder for the Predators to gain the offensive zone. Nashville
managed just one shot on net for the first 12-plus minutes of the
"They don't give you much," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "They
lock you down and swarm on you. They're committed to blocking shots
and taking away (passing) lanes. They're a veteran team and they do
a good job of limiting your chances."
St. Louis defenseman Ian Cole opened the scoring at 4:03 of the
first period, whipping a 43-foot wrister over Rinne's left shoulder
into the net's upper left corner. It was Cole's third goal and
marked the first time in five games that the Blues had scored the
But the Predators controlled the period's remainder, equalizing at
10:28 as left winger Nick Spaling tipped a centering pass from right
winger Patric Hornqvist through Miller's legs for his 11th goal of
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Nashville (26-27-10) owned a 12-5 advantage in shots on goal at one
point in the second period but generated only nine shots in the last
"Other than a 4-on-4 (in the third period), we gave them nothing for
35 minutes," Hitchcock said. "I thought we played a very good second
period and a great third period."
Playing his second game after a 51-game absence because of surgery
that removed a spontaneous bacterial infection from his hip in late
October, Rinne (4-6-1) made 20 saves and did his part to keep the
Predators in contention.
Rinne denied left winger Alexander Steen his 30th goal at 15:33 of
the second period with a glove save on a penalty shot. Later, he
saved a point-blank wrist shot from center David Backes.
However, Nashville could not generate enough chances on offense and
dropped its third straight game, falling eight points behind the
Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"This is not how we wanted to come out of the (Olympic) break,"
center Colin Wilson said. "Obviously, we wanted to come out on a
roll and haven't been able to. It makes every game just count more."
NOTES: St. Louis is on pace for 119 points, five better than the
1999 Dallas Stars, who won the Stanley Cup. That team was coached by
current Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. ... RW Patrick Eaves dressed and
played on a line with C Paul Gaustad and LW Rich Clune in his first
game with Nashville. Eaves was acquired Wednesday from the Detroit
Red Wings in exchange for C David Legwand, the Predators' first-ever
draft pick in 1998. ... St. Louis has nine players with at least 30
points, more than any other team in the NHL. ... Nashville boasts
the youngest defense corps in the NHL with an average age of 24
years, 25 days. That is almost two years younger than No. 2 Columbus
(25 years, 351 days).
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