NASHVILLE â€” The Nashville Predators finally had a chance to show how they would react to their first loss this post-season.
Returning home, they put their deep scoring on display and bounced back with a big victory.
Cody McLeod scored the game-winner early in the second period, and the Predators beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 Sunday to grab a 2-1 lead in their Western Conference semifinal.
“It shows a lot of character coming off a loss last game,” Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. “We knew that coming in it’s a huge game. Responded really well. It’s a good feeling obviously, but you already start thinking about the next one and trying to keep this momentum going.”
Defencemen Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi also scored, and Colton Sissons added two assists. The Predators outshot St. Louis 34-23, and they now are 6-1 this post-season.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said it was good to be home before a standing-room only crowd coming off a 3-2 loss in Game 2 on Friday night.
“It was awesome today,” Laviolette said. “That’s a credit to our fans and the energy that comes into this building. You guys see that and get to experience it just like we do, so that’s a real positive for us. Nobody likes losing, probably on any team, and you look for a response, and I thought the response was good today.”
Alexander Steen scored for the Blues, who lost for the first time on the road this post-season.
Blues goalie Jake Allen kept St. Louis in this game before being pulled by coach Mike Yeo for the extra attacker with more than 4 minutes remaining and took his timeout with 1:25 left.
“We had a decent start, but once they started to get to their game we didn’t seem to have an answer for it,” Yeo said. “They upped their game, they took their game to another level and we didn’t match it.”
Rinne finished with 22 saves, including a flurry of stops to preserve the win.
Game 3 is Tuesday night.
With a national TV audience, Nashville had plenty of stars on hand for the matinee ranging from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to country star Luke Bryan and Tennessee Titans Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray. Country group Little Big Town became the latest to sing the national anthem, and Lee Greenwood sang during the second intermission.
St. Louis came in undefeated on the road this post-season after winning three in Minnesota in the first round, while the Predators won both games in Nashville while sweeping Chicago. The Blues also had won nine of their last 10 road games overall.
Something had to give in this game.
The Predators never got the man advantage in Game 2, and they got their first nearly midway through the first period.
Just after the power play ended, Ellis gave Nashville a 1-0 lead with his slap shot from near the blue line at 10:34 off assists from Filip Forsberg and P.K. Subban. Ellis now has a point in six straight playoff games, extending his franchise record for a defenceman and also leading the Predators.
“It’s the consecutive penalties that are getting us into trouble,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said.
McLeod gave Nashville a 2-0 lead with his first goal of the post-season just 2:29 into the second period with a backhander past Allen. McLeod became the 13th Nashville player to score this post-season, a goal that even got Laviolette to smile on the bench.
“Anytime we can be a plus line or chip one in, it’s going to obviously help,” McLeod said. “Fidds (Vernon Fiddler) did that in Game 1, so yeah, so far, so good. We just have to make sure we continue to play strong defence and chip one in every once in a while.”
St. Louis, which took eight of the first 12 shots, went without a shot in the second period until Steen tipped in a shot by Pietrangelo at 12:59 to pull the Blues within 2-1.
The Blues had a chance to tie it up late in the second with a 2-on-1, but Rinne stopped the shot from David Perron from the slot. Nashville outshot St. Louis 18-4 in the period.
Blues defenceman Robert Bortuzzo had a shot go off the post within the first five minutes of the third. Josi scored on a slap shot with 5:49 left to prompt yet another standing ovation by the standing-room only crowd.
NOTES: The Predators have won seven straight home playoff games, including the first three this post-season. … Nashville’s defencemen now have accounted for 21 points in this post-season with seven goals and 14 assists. … The local Triple-A baseball team, the Nashville Sounds, put the game on its guitar-shaped scoreboard during a rain delay.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press