While the surging St. Louis Blues are already in the playoffs, their goal with four games remaining is to keep piling up points and finishing with a flourish.
Facing a Sunday afternoon showdown against Central Division rival Nashville, the Blues got a goal and two assists from David Perron and another stellar performance from goaltender Jake Allen in a 4-1 victory over the Predators before a sellout crowd of 19,262 at Scottrade Center.
The Blues (43-28-7, 93 points) are now 12-1-2 in their last 15 games and are on a season-best, nine-game point streak (7-0-2). Nashville (40-28-11, 91 points), now 3-2 against the Blues, has three games remaining.
“We’re not gonna talk about Stanley Cup right now, but every team that gets in has a chance for it,” Perron said. “In the end, it’s definitely the goal, but it’s building step by step. We’re not there yet, but it’s a big thing (Coach Mike Yeo) is mentioning. No matter what, we just keep building.”
Blues coach Mike Yeo definitely liked what he saw in a playoff-like atmosphere full of intensity.
“It was a real strong effort,” Yeo said. “You could tell right from the beginning that the emotion and the intensity was there.”
Both teams are battling for third place in the Central, which would lead to a first-round playoff matchup with the second-place Minnesota Wild.
“With four games left, a couple at home, a couple on the road, we’ve put ourselves in a good spot,” said Allen (31-19-5), the first Blues goaltender to win 31 games since Chris Osgood in 2003-2004. “We know we’re in the playoffs but we still want to try to keep working up. More or less for us it’s just playing well going in the playoffs, doing the right things, playing well.
“If we don’t win all four games, not a big deal as long as we’re playing well and we’re making good steps.”
Plenty of progress was made while killing off the bulk of two early 5-on-3 Nashville power plays during the first period lasting more than three minutes. The Predators got a power-play goal, but Allen and the penalty-kill unit came up huge with the outcome still in doubt.
“It’s a rarity at the start of the game, but that’s the way it goes,” Allen said. “We responded well and honestly I think we’ve got to be pretty happy with only giving up one there.”
Allen stopped 35 of 36 shots and moved to 9-1-2 in his last 12 starts. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his last 12 games and is 4-0-1 in his last five starts at home.
“I said it before, this team rises to the occasion this year,” said Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who has three goals and seven points during the 7-0-2 run. “We’ve done it in big games, games that have mattered. I wasn’t surprised by the effort. I thought emotionally we were really invested. We did a really good job of getting into the game.
“These afternoon games are always a little bit challenging, but it didn’t really faze us.”
Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, who had five of the Blues’ 25 shots, added an unassisted goal in the third period.
Perron didn’t receive an assist, but he did a lot of of the work on Alexander Steen’s goal early in the second period that snapped Steen’s nine-game goal drought and also broke a 1-1 tie. It was Steen’s 15th goal as he rifled in a loose puck in front, putting him in ninth place on the Blues’ all-time goals list with 162.
Perron made it 3-1 when he eluded Predators’ defenseman P.K. Subban and rifled a sizzling wrist shot past Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros. It was the second goal in three games for Perron, who has 17 goals this season. Perron’s 44 points are the most since his 57-point season in 2013-14.
Vladimir Tarasenko gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with his 37th goal 5:22 into the first period, giving him at least 70 points for the third straight season. He took a feed from Jaden Schwartz on the left side, then beat Saros from an extremely tough angle.
The assist gave Schwartz four goals and eight points in his last seven games.
Allen kept the Blues’ lead at two late in the second period when he turned away Colin Wilson on a breakaway with a pad save. Wilson broke free after Blues defenseman Colton Parayko fell down seconds earlier.
Blues fans filled Scottrade Center with boos following a questionable slashing penalty on Perron that led to the Predators’ second 5-on-3 opportunity during the first period. Perron and Edmundson (tripping) were penalized at the same time, leading to the 5-on-3 that led to Ryan Johansen’s game-tying power-play goal.
Johansen pulled a loose puck out of traffic near Jake Allen and lifted it over the Blues goalie for his 14th goal.