Blues erupt early, then hold off Predators

News-DemocratOctober 3, 2013 

— While they didn't extend an early flourish in the opening period Thursday, the St. Louis Blues had more than enough left to finish off a 4-2 season-opening victory over the Nashville Predators.

"The Cards scored nine today, we were trying to keep up and we couldn't do it," said Blues captain David Backes, who had a goal and an assist and made sure to highlight the Cardinals' 9-1 playoff victory over Pittsburgh.

The Blues erupted for three goals in a little over nine minutes of the first period, chasing Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne from the game as an opening night crowd of 18,851 at Scottrade Center roared its approval.

"It was pretty ideal the first 10 minutes," Backes said. "I don't know if we got complacent, but that level ... we played pretty hard the first 10 and maybe took a step back. They're a team that keeps coming at you and they found a couple (goals), kind of woke us up again where we had to focus back on playing our style of hockey."

A loud and emotional pregame ceremony was capped by the opening puck drop by the greatest player in Blues history and the team's new vice president, Hall of Famer Brett Hull.

Hull received the biggest ovation from the crowd, while Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and the players also were serenaded with cheers and applause.

On the Blues' first power play, a deflected shot from the left point by Alex Pietrangelo left the puck in front of the net and Backes quickly gave it a home inside the net.

Pietrangelo also assisted on the second Blues goal as an outlet pass from Jay Bouwmeester sent Vladimir Sobotka into the Predators' zone. Sobotka got behind a defender, then waited patiently before beating Rinne.

The line of Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen kept up the pressure and netted the Blues' third goal of the period. Steen found Oshie in front and Oshie's backhander eluded Rinne to make it 3-0.

Backes said it was fun to put the grind of a long training camp in the rear-view mirror.

"We've beat the heck out of each other for two or three weeks," Backes said. "It's nice to finally play for keeps and play against a different opponent. You get the rah-rah stuff in before and you've got a lot of adrenaline going.

"We were able to roll four lines most of the night, which keeps the energy high. We had a lot of guys contribute on the scoresheet, off the scoresheet and it all adds up to a a pretty good team victory."

The Predators tightened things down defensively once Rinne was replaced by backup goalie Carter Hutton. Hutton stopped 21 of 22 shots in a relief role.

Nashville cut the deficit to 3-1 when Nick Spralin gained the puck behind the Blues net and set up Mike Fisher in front.

The Predators seemed to regroup and tightened up defensively after the goalie change, climbing back into the game with some aggressive forechecking.

They cut the Blues lead to 3-2 early in the second period when veteran David Legwand executed a near-perfect give-and-go play with Patric Hornqvist and beat Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak in front.

Legwand worked his way behind Pietrangelo on the play.

That goal came right after Oshie rang a shot off the goalpost at the other end.

Halak began the night with an 8-3-3 record, 1.74 goals-against average and four shutouts in 15 career games vs. Nashville. He stopped 28 of 30 shots to gain the victory.

Halak played in only 16 games a year ago because of a nagging groin injury that he successfully rehabbed during the offseason.

"He looks sharp," Hitchcock said. "He looks really sharp."

Veteran Brenden Morrow drew an interference penalty on Nashville's Fisher and the Blues didn't take long to collect their second power-play goal of the night on a shot from the middle of the blue line by Steen.

The Blues are 12-6-2 in home openers and have won four of the last five.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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