Blues stay alive by beating Predators

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[May 06, 2017]  ST. LOUIS -- Dmitrij Jaskin played his first game of the postseason Friday night when right winger Alexander Steen was scratched with a foot injury.

It's safe to say Jaskin will play his second on Sunday.

Scoring the St. Louis Blues' first goal and looking suspiciously like the best player on the ice at times, Jaskin sparked his team to a season-saving 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Scottrade Center to cut their series deficit to 3-2 in the best-of-seven event.

Nashville can still wrap up their first Western Conference finals berth with a victory in Game 6 on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, but it will have to shrug off its most lackluster postseason effort this spring. It was outshot 32-22 and had 25 other shots blocked.

The presence of Jaskin, who put a game-high eight shots on net and tied for the team high with four hits, was a big reason why St. Louis staved off elimination.

"I was ready since day one," Jaskin said. "It's unbelievable. We had to do it tonight and we did it. Everybody's happy."

No one was happy eight seconds prior to Jaskin's marker at 5:43 of the second period. The crowd of 19,168 was booing loudly at the end of a sequence where Jaden Schwartz appeared to be tripped, but didn't get the call.

The booing turned to cheers very quickly.

Alex Pietrangelo fired a slapper from the right point that Pekka Rinne knocked away. But Jaskin got to the rebound and slotted a wrister from the bottom of the right faceoff circle.

"I think that's what we have to do," Jaskin said. "Get pucks through from the point and drive the net. It sounds simple, but it's hard."

The formula was replicated 25 seconds into the third period, the teams locked in a 1-1 tie. Shortly after an interference penalty to Predators defenseman P.K. Subban ran its course, Colton Parayko flipped a wrister from the left point.

Rinne made the initial save, but Schwartz was right there for the rebound. He slipped a point-blank wrister by the big goalie for his fourth postseason goal that provided the margin of victory.

"We have to do more of it," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We've got some big bodies that can drive the net. We're still passing up some opportunities and we have to make sure to find some of those opportunities."

However, St. Louis kept Nashville from creating the chances it has for most of the series, gumming up the neutral zone and preventing its speed from dictating the action. Of the 21 saves Jake Allen had to make, few were truly difficult.

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 Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) defends the net against the Nashville Predators during the first period in game five of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, Allen was tested only once over the last 9:17.

Filip Forsberg burst down the right side and had a clean look from the circle, but Allen smothered his wrist shot from 30 feet out. The Predators didn't get a single shot on net in the final 6:11, not even after pulling Rinne for a sixth skater with just over two minutes left.

"We've got to be better, it's as simple as that," Subban said. "We weren't our best today and that's what happens when you're not at your best in the playoffs. We've got to play a full 60 minutes of Preds hockey for us to be successful."

Nashville's only goal came during a 5-on-3 power play as James Neal, stationed at the right post, converted Subban's diagonal pass at 13:50 of the second period for his third goal of the playoffs.

Rinne did his part to keep the Predators in contention with 30 saves, many of them tough. But it wasn't enough to force the Blues into a postgame handshake line.

"It wasn't our best game, but we still had a chance to win," Rinne said.

NOTES: Nashville RW Craig Smith missed his sixth straight game with an undisclosed injury, even though he skated Friday morning. Smith hasn't played since leaving Game 3 of his team's first round sweep of Chicago in overtime. ... Before RW Dmitrij Jaskin's goal in the second period, St. Louis led in the series for a grand total of 3:51 at the end of Game 2. ... Other Predator scratches were D Anthony Bitetto, RW PA Parenteau, D Brad Hunt, C Frederick Gaudreau, G Marek Mazanec, RW Pontus Aberg and C Vernon Fiddler. ... The Blues scratched D Jordan Schmaltz, C Ivan Barbashev, RW Nail Yakupov, LW Zach Sanford and G Luke Opilka.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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