Cal O'Reilly leads Predators to 4-3 win over St. Louis

NASHVILLE TN - OCTOBER 14: Right wing Patric Hornqvist #27 of the Nashville Predators celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal against goalie Jaroslav Halak #41 of the St. Louis Blues on October 14 2010 in Nashville Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

"We won a game against STL, pat ourselves on the back for an hour and think about Washington. That's the mature thing and I think our team looks at it that way." - Barry Trotz, 10/15/10

The Nashville Predators continued to get their 2010-11 campaign off to a roaring start, with a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena. Marcel Goc opened the scoring less than a minute into the game, while Steve Sullivan continued his assault on the Rocket Richard (optimism, right?) with two goals. Patric Hornqvist won the game on the man advantage. Though he didn't score, Cal O`Reilly was all over the ice tonight contributing phenomenal vision and 3 assists. The Predators - yes, the Predators - went 2/3 on the power play tonight.

Further recap follows after the jump.

For a team that should have been worried about a slow start, the Preds certainly didn't show any ill effects from last night's game. Just 56 seconds into the first frame, Colin Wilson stormed the offensive zone and found JP Dumont, who dropped a back pass to Marcel Goc. Goc fired it into traffic the first time, but the rebound came out and he didn't miss on the second try. Just like that, it was 1-0 Nashville. 

A few minutes later, Shane O`Brien opened his fight account as a Nashville Predator by taking on Blues middleweight BJ Crombeen. Both players got in some good punches, but Crombeen ultimately took the bout in a clear decision. 

Anders Lindback had some rough moments, but Nashville's defense was able to bail him out pretty well. Once again, the Giant needs to work on his rebound control. 

Nashville would find themselves on the power play midway through the period, and it became even more apparent that last year was just that - last year. The passing was crisp and the player movement even better. Eric Brewer went to the box for delay of game to put Nashville up two men, and Steve Sullivan made the Blues pay. Cal O'Reilly delivered a slick drop pass to Ryan Suter, who faked a slapshot and rifled a pass to Sullivan who put the puck past Jaroslav Halak to the stick side.

The Blues, a bit lethargic early, came to life when a Jay McClement shot bounced off Matt D'Agostini and into the net past Lindback.

It wasn't long before the Masterton Trophy winner struck again, however, as Nashville displayed the resiliency we've become accustomed to seeing. Just fifteen seconds after D'Agostini's goal, Patric Hornqvist engaged in some of his trademark hard work behind the net and fed the puck to O'Reilly, who put it right on Sullivan's tape for an easy slapshot over Halak's shoulder. The euphoria in the building began to build - its been a long time since we've seen a Preds team click the way they did in the first period tonight, and Sullivan agreed, saying that "Everything's working now. It's a great dressing room. The atmosphere in here now - and even in training camp - is just fun, exciting, and light."

In the 2nd frame, the Chicago game appeared to catch up to Nashville a little bit as the passes got sloppier. A bad line change resulted in a turnover straight to T.J. Oshie, who skated in alone on Lindback and roofed a backhander to make it 3-2 Nashville. Oshie was blunt in postgame, though, noting "I think they just outworked us. My goal kind of sparked us a little bit, but then they got one right back".

Just when you thought things were settling down, Nashville drew one last power play. Cal O`Reilly won the faceoff to the right of Halak, and worked the puck back to Ryan Suter. Suter, of course, found Weber, who backhanded a pass to O'Reilly in the left slot. O'Reilly wound up and fired a shot on goal, resulting in a juicy rebound. Patric Hornqvist jumped on the opportunity to give the Predators a two goal lead. 

Patrik Berglund scored for St. Louis in the 3rd period, but the buzz focused on Jordin Tootoo's huge hit and the following shenanigans. Tootoo rocked Matt D'Agostini behind Nashville's net (which, to my eyes, was a clean hit), and play continued. Blues rookie Ryan Reaves took exception to the hit, though, and tracked Tootoo all the way to center ice. Jordin proceeded to sling his gloves off without any warning and unleash a flurry of punches on the unsuspecting rookie. While the hit itself was okay, the actions afterwards by Tootoo were unacceptable, a sentiment that would later be confirmed by Trotz, who said that "Those are things where you don't want to give the other team momentum when they're looking for momentum". As a repeat offender, it wouldn't surprise me if he received a phone call from the league office tomorrow.

It wasn't a complete effort, but it was surely close to one. The Predators are getting scoring from secondary players, primary players, their power play, and good goaltending from their backup, too. They're 3-0, and sitting on top of the Central Division. Enjoy it while you can, folks, because there's at least 79 more.

GAME NOTES: 

  • Matthew Lombardi was scratched tonight (along with Alexander Sulzer), with what Barry Trotz termed an 'upper body injury'. He is day-to-day. 
  • Sergei Kostitsyn had a fairly inauspicious debut, but certainly didn't do himself any harm. Trotz said that he "has a lot of intelligence, in terms of what he can do with the puck" but that he'll need him to "play with more pace and more back pressure".
  • I had my doubts as to what a captaincy change would actually do, but there's no doubt that Shea Weber's attitude permeates the rest of the locker room. His efforts are translating to the rest of the team, which so far, has only meant good things. After the game, Weber echoed the thoughts of his coach, wanting the team to "live in the moment and get ready for Washington".
  • When this article went to press, Steve Sullivan was tied for the NHL lead in goals with 4 through 3 games.
  • Martin Erat was placed on retroactive injured reserve, which rules him out for Saturday against the Capitals. Barry Trotz said he was progressing, though, and to look for him on Tuesday against Calgary. 

"I think the level of play tonight compared to our last game was a world of difference. They had four lines that were willing to do the dirty work and win battles. It's not that we haven't faced that at all this year, but it is a bit of a contrast." - Blues alternate captain David Backes, 10/15/10.

And for your video highlights...


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